When you think of war, the image that pops into your head is probably something like World War II or Vietnam, with violent battles just constantly raging all the time. But that’s not how every war works. For example, at the end of World War II, the Soviet Union went to war with the United States for decades. We now know that as the Cold War. Nobody ever engaged in full-scale combat, but that’s only because, at the time, it would have meant massive nuclear strikes on both sides. Everyone annihilates everyone. Sure, there were conflicts that both sides had a vested interest in, like the Korean War or the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but those incidents were few and far between. For the most part, it was just a constant state of mistrust between the two sides. If there was any direct fighting, it was done through espionage and propaganda.
In this context, what’s happening between police and the public is very much like a war. Is there espionage? Sure, in that most of the incidents of police brutality that have made the news recently did so because someone, without the knowledge of the officers involved, was shooting video. Is there propaganda? Your answer to that probably goes a long way toward determining whether you’ll buy into this idea at all.
On August 9th last year, Michael Brown, an 18-year old African American, was fatally shot multiple times in the St Louis County of Ferguson. He and a friend, Dorian Johnson, had looted a service station earlier for cigarillos and the police were looking for them. They encountered officer Darren Wilson whilst walking down the street. The initial contact between the two were unrelated to the robbery but then Wilson said he recognized the pair as men that match the descriptions of the suspects. He backed up his cruiser and blocked them. An altercation ensued with Brown and Wilson struggling through the window of the police car until Wilson’s gun was fired. Brown and Johnson fled, obviously afraid, with Wilson in pursuit, Michael Brown stopped and turned to face the officer. The entire interaction led to Wilson firing twelve shots at Brown, all hitting him in the chest. The young man was unarmed. Witness reports differed as to what he was doing with his hands when he was shot, but his friend did say he had his arms in surrender.
This shooting sparked unrest, starting in Ferguson and soon the whole world. Protests, peaceful and violent, as well as looting and vandalism, continued for a week, resulting in night curfews.
On November 24th, over 3 months later, it was announced that the St Louis County grand jury has decided not to indict Wilson. At the start of March this year, the U.S Department of Justice cleared Wilson of civil rights violations in the shooting. According to the witness who verified his account, Wilson shot Michael Brown in self-defense. Nevertheless, the spark this shooting caused didn’t die down.
A similar event of police brutality took place in Baltimore, exactly a month ago today. Freddie Gray, a 25-year old African American was arrested by the Baltimore PD for possessing what the police claimed was an illegal switchblade. While being transported in a police van, Gray fell into a coma and was taken to a trauma center. He died a week later from injuries to his spinal cord. 2 days later, 6 police officers were temporarily suspended with pay. The circumstances of Gray’s injuries were initially unclear,