Right to Protest?
More and more peaceful protests in the US are answered by militarized police.
Increasingly around the country, noted civil liberties attorney Bill Quigley told Nieman Watchdog this summer, "What we have had is a militarization of the police response to nonviolent demonstrations. You attend one of those rallies and you could get the impression that it's unpatriotic to protest, that you're doing something wrong, that you're some sort of security threat."
Compared to the Vietnam war era, Quigley said, police around the country use more intimidating tactics these days, which likely discourages or scares off some people who might otherwise want to participate in protests. During the Vietnam war, he said, there was "pushback" – often violent – by police at demonstrations, but the police then were not decked out in full-blown military regalia and carrying the often heavy weaponry that can be the case today.
The militarization of the nation’s police forces is one of the most under-reported stories in the mainstream U.S. press. The issue sometimes surfaces in connection with SWAT teams conducting drug raids, particularly when police or Drug Enforcement Administration agents bust down the wrong door and frighten innocent occupants half to death and even injure them and destroy property. But rarely are there news stories questioning the propriety of these police forces becoming, in effect, little domestic armies. And the increase in anti-terrorism fear-mongering to justify the use of heavily-armed, riot-geared police at political demonstrations has the added dimension of providing a chilling effect on people’s exercise of their First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble and to petition their government.
It’s time reporters on all news organizations begin going to their local and state police departments and asking: How much of this crap do you have, and why do you need it?
Do the tea party protests face this problem?