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Asking for martial law?



A Nashville Sheriff's Police Bearcat. Sign of militarized police and maybe overweaning government.

Regular readers know the United States Department of Justice has prepared for martial law for years. They have placed up-armored Army and Marine surplus vehicles with police departments and sheriff’s offices, large and small. And you, the taxpayer, have paid for this excess. Of course some police department would use those vehicles for some totally unnecessary “bad-ass” policing. But could anyone say ahead of time that a United States Representative would ask for martial law?

Guess what? It happened. On the afternoon of August 14.

Background for martial law

The police action took place in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, on August 9. By now everyone knows a young man named Michael Brown took at least two shots from Officer Darren Wilson of the St. Louis County Police Department. He then checked in to a hospital and died there. CNN has this story of the shooting, and a follow-up. Michael Brown’s friends say one thing; the St. Louis County police say another. This much, no one disputes:

  1. Officer Wilson, or a fellow officer, fired a shot or shots from inside his vehicle.
  2. Michael Brown was thirty-five feet away when the bullets hit him.

Brown was a giant of a man. The police insist Brown was trying to take the officer’s gun away from him. His friends say the officer laid hands on Brown, and Brown did not provoke that act. The two undisputed facts only deepen the mystery.

The St. Louis County police refused to name Officer Wilson until 8:43 a.m. CDT Friday, August 15. Many commentators say that’s unusual, given how much time passed. In that release, Wilson’s chief suggested Brown, or someone who looked like him, robbed a convenience store, strong-arm style.

Since then, several protests, violent and non-violent, have broken out in Ferguson. In the first, protesters damaged 20 police cruisers and looted and burned several neighborhood stores.

This sounds like an anti-police drama from the 1960s. Except it’s happening now. Today. In “post-racial” America.

Those are the external facts. But other facts that have come out since, make this look like a set-up for martial law.

Is someone setting this up?

A Nashville Sheriff's Police Bearcat. Sign of a police state? Hardware of martial law?

A Lenco Bearcat rescue vehicle belonging to the Nashville SWAT team. Photo: User Sdlewis at Wikimedia Commons, who released it into the public domain

Here are these other disturbing facts:

The ones doing the looting and burning, do not live in Ferguson. They came in from outside.

Fox News Channel quoted a man, whom they identified (or who identified himself) as the commandant of the black militia calling itself the New Black Panther (NBP) Party. They said he called for armed rebellion. Thus far, no one wearing an NBP uniform has shown up.

The St. Louis County police are one of those departments having the up-armored riot-control vehicles, the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected light-armored personnel carriers. They deployed several at least once. On that occasion, one St. Louis County police officer taunted the protesters.

Bring it, all you f___ing animals! Bring it!

(Editor’s note: CNAV apologizes for having to hint at the coarse language. We do so to be accurate. If you doubt the story, play the embedded video.)

It gets worse. The St. Louis County police were arresting reporters for taking pictures, without warning them in advance to clear the area.

While all this was happening, de facto President Obama came to a podium in Martha’s Vineyard, made a short speech about matters in Ferguson (and in Iraq), then went back to the links. Human Events sought to criticize Obama for vacationing at a time like this. But in the process they caught pictures of some of those up-armored vehicles.

Everyone else is missing the common thread. Police shoot an unarmed young man. (They think he robbed a store. Somebody robbed that store, all right. But who? Why?) Outsiders come into town to loot and burn. The police answer with military-style hardware, the hardware of martial law. They even arrest reporters, another thing soldiers do under martial law. The only thing that makes it not martial law is the enforcers wear police blue, not Army khaki.

That’s bad enough. But a United States Representative, not even from Missouri, just asked for martial law. Asked for it!

Who is John Lewis?

Representative John Lewis (D-Ga.-5th) has fought “civil rights” battles for nearly all his career. If anyone should know the stakes, he should. Today his electronic office made this statement about Michael Brown. In this paragraph he shows how close he comes to grasping the real stakes:

It is a shame and a disgrace that a city with a significant African-American population has  only three representatives from that  community on the police force.  What kind of a police department is it that would refer to the people it should be trying to protect as animals?  It is unbelievable that these ideas could run rampant in 2014.  This is not 1940 or 1950 in America, but today it is hard to see the difference.

So close, and yet so far. If he had stopped with this, CNAV would give that man a standing O. But what he said next, on MSNBC, ruined everything.

President Obama should use the authority of his office to declare martial law. Federalize the Missouri National Guard to protect people as they protest.

Is. He. KIDDING?!?

Has he any idea what martial law would mean? Does he really want to play into the hands of those who want martial law? Or has he thrown in with the Cloward-Piven crowd? “The Weight of the Angry: Toward Martial Law Throughout the Land.” In other words, Shadow on the Land meets Blue Thunder. Is a United States Representative sure he signed on for that?

Is he so naïve as to imagine martial law would mean only that the federal government would protect “his” people? Oh, no. That’s not how martial law works. Once a government declares that, everyone is the enemy until they somehow prove friendly. Lewis should instead be asking: who really robbed that store? How did the St. Louis County Police Department get those up-armored personnel carriers to begin with? Who paid for that? Who authorized that? That’s what we’d like to know. We suspect the answers would make Lewis sorry he ever breathed the phrase.

In the meantime those who live in Ferguson should reject such reckless calls, and call for a truly independent, even private investigation of the store robbery and the death of Michael Brown. His death is only the latest in a raft of cases in which police exceed their authority in using deadly force. (You don’t kill a man for robbing a store! And you definitely don’t kill a man without trial, when you can’t possibly know you have the right man. Not in America, you don’t.) The aftermath smells of a set-up. Will the people of Ferguson let outsiders provoke them into giving certain authorities (whoever they are) the excuse for martial law? Or will they demand to know not only why that officer shot their favorite son, but who set up the violence Ferguson has seen since?

And if John Lewis can’t put it together properly, one can only hope others in Congress will. From both Parties.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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[…] maybe someone tried to dress-rehearse martial law. They even tempted a United States Congressman to call for that. And that military hardware doesn’t help. It makes residents think an army is […]


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