Ferguson, Missouri 15 August 2014  – When you look at a city of 22,000 which is 70% black but which has had, for various historical and political reasons, an overwhelmingly white police force, you might expect difficulties.  In the case of Ferguson, Missouri, you are correct.

When I say “overwhelmingly white,” that’s exactly what I mean. “The police force has 53 members, and three of them are black. The city’s mayor and police chief are white, as are most of the members [five of six] of the Ferguson City Council.”  Washington Post

So, six percent of the police are black whereas 70% of the population is black.  Yes, I am saying that St. Louis Democratic Party machine politics are racist, that voting hasn’t changed the complexion of the Ferguson city council, and that keeping black people in poverty and submission is a goal of the people who run St. Louis county.  Yes, I am saying that race played a role in the current unrest.

So does police brutality.  A Washington Post reporter’s head was smashed into a soda machine and a Huffington Post reporter had his head hit on some glass doors, not because those reporters were rioting, but because the St. Louis police are authoritarian and violent people.  At least one St. Louis area police officer, probably a Ferguson police officer, committed murder a few days ago, in my opinion.

Dorian Johnson, who is no relation to me, has been quoted in a few publications but (not surprisingly, to me) not in several mainstream publications that claim they want to talk to witnesses.  Dorian was walking with his friend Mike Brown.  He explains what happens at the time of the shooting.

“It was around 1:40, two o’clock. We were walking down the street, empty street. We were just walking down, minding our business. We’re both headed home, and the officer’s approaching us, and as he pulled up on the side of us, he didn’t say ‘freeze,’ ‘halt,’ or nothing like we were committing a crime. He said, ‘Get the f— on the sidewalk!’ I told the officer we were not but a minute away from the destination,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the officer then opened his car door, grabbed Brown’s neck and attempted to pull him through the window of the police car. He added that Brown “never once attempted to grab for the officer’s weapon.”

“The second time he says, ‘I’ll shoot,’ a second later the gun went off and he let go. That’s how we were able to run at the same time,” Johnson said. He said he ran behind a car while the officer fired at them, shooting Brown in the back.

Johnson continued, “[Brown’s] hands immediately went into the air and he turned around to the officer. My friend started to tell the officer that he was unarmed and that he could stop shooting. Before he could get his second sentence out, the officer fired several more shots into his head and chest area. He fell dramatically into the fetal position. I did not hear once he yell ‘freeze,’ ‘stop’ or ‘halt.’ It was just horrible to watch.” IB Times

How did we get to this point?  Why are there police using military equipment, including “sound cannon” and armored vehicles, to control crowds?  Why are there police, at all?  And given that the police are around, what are the historical and political reasons for a tiny minority of whites running the entire city government of Ferguson, Missouri?

Let’s take these topics one at a time, and try to get at their origins.  First, police are a “modern” invention, brought into existence in London in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel for the purpose of harassing bar owners and prostitutes in order to shift the “mobility” from the core of central London to its outskirts.  Peel was, at the time, Home Secretary.  The very word “police” is French, and derives from the Greek term “polis” from which we get the ancient concept of a “city-state.”

Before you get all weepy about ancient Greek concepts of democracy, I’d like to mention that a great deal of evil has been done in the name of the city-state.  Socrates killed himself with hemlock because he believed his life belonged to the Athenian state.  Plato wrote about a noble lie because he wanted a strong central government to choose everything for everyone.  Solon created a web of laws, even though he was warned that it wouldn’t make anyone accountable – the laws would be used against the weak and would be ignored by the powerful, according to Anacharsis.

From its outset, the Metropolitan Police were feared as an instrument of repression.  In response to these well-grounded fears, Peel came up with a set of principles of accountability found here which, as you can see, were completely ignored in Ferguson, Missouri, both in the official murder of Michael Brown and in the response to the first few days of non-violent and civil protests in the city.

The truth is that all central authority and all governmental power tends to be unaccountable, however well-intentioned.  People who have power do not wish to be accountable, responsible, polite, pleasant, or good.  To date, no police force has been held accountable by any citizens commission or other political committee, because all such commissions and city governments are made into rubber stamps for the police.  It seems very unlikely that any police force is ever going to be willing to be guided by, let alone supervised by, any other group of people.

Jim Crow is an American invention, meant to keep newly-freed American blacks from exercising their rights as human beings.  Between 1876 and 1965, extensive laws were used to forcibly segregate American blacks into subordinate and typically dismal facilities.  Jim Crow kept blacks from eating in the same restaurants, staying at the same hotels, going to the same schools, using the same bathrooms, or drinking from the same water fountains as white people.

It should be remembered that in 1865 the party promoting freedom for black slaves was primarily the Republican party in the North.  The “solid South” was solid for the Democratic Party because the Democrats were against racial equality.  For example, Woodrow Wilson segregated the civil service, promoted many racist policies, and was extremely regressive on issues of race.  Even people who insist on celebrating Wilson as “Progressive” in the contemporary sense often have to admit that he was a virulent racist.  Example

St. Louis is a particularly pernicious haven of racist sentiments.  Members of my family who worked to integrate the lunch counters in downtown St. Louis in 1949 and petitioned Washington University in St. Louis to accept black students would not be surprised that it remains a hotbed of racism.  An overview of segregation and racism as it exists today in the USA can be found here.

The explorer Lasalle, among others, passed the current site of St. Louis roughly 1682 on his way to the Gulf of Mexico.  Lasalle claimed the entire valley of the Mississippi River for France and named the territory “Louisiana” after Louis XIV.  The so-called “Sun King” was an early modern “police” force developer, having created a policing agency for Paris during his reign.  The city of St. Louis itself was founded by  Pierre Laclede and Auguste Chouteau in 1764 and named after an earlier king, Louis IX, a Catholic saint.

Missouri was brought into the United States as part of the “South” in what was then known as the Missouri Compromise.  Accordingly, slave ownership was legal from its admission into the Union in 1821.  St. Louis was notable for having a major slave auction block in its downtown.  The slave Dred Scott filed suit in St. Louis in 1846, attempting to gain his freedom through legal means.  (You can see that he was unsuccessful, and that it is rarely a good idea for people to seek justice within the system of their oppressors.)  Missouri had two governments during the American civil war, and was the scene of considerable violence by both military units and partisan militia groups.

Many people think that the student radicals of the 1960s and the war on some drugs are the origins of the entrenched “Americans are the enemy within” view of the law-and-order establishment.  That’s evidently not true.  The 1917 Enemy Aliens act and the Palmer raids of 1919 and 1920 illustrate that it was a much earlier, “Progressive” period under Woodrow Wilson that this attitude came to the fore.  Wilson was considerably a slime-bucket of authoritarian ideology.  Not only did he segregate the civil service and attempt to exile anarchists for daring to have different political views, but also he created a “brownshirt” cadre called the American Protective League, signed the Federal Reserve act into law, and promoted central control of everything.

In other words, the very same thinking that led Frederick Taylor to view workers as enemies of efficiency, insist that only managers do any thinking, and view innovations by workers as grounds for firing them, went into the policies that made certain drugs “illegal narcotics” and ignored others (mostly caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol – fashionable for the upper classes of the day).  A good friend of mine has pointed out that Taylor’s work was embraced by people like Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh in the United States, Adolph Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin in Europe, and Mao in China.  As RJ Rummel documents here something like 262 million people were exterminated by government-on-civilian violence in the 20th Century.

Although FDR was obviously tempted to build extermination camps for Japanese-Americans after 1941, the USA mostly missed out on the exterminations of the 20th Century.  Which is not to say that Native American populations were spared in the 19th Century, nor were black civilians treated decently when they stood up for their freedom.  It isn’t clear what the future will bring, of course.

What is clear is that the police are the military, the United States is a police state, authoritarianism is the last refuge of the establishment, and we are all living in interesting times.  Those who are willing to use encryption, anonymity, and privacy technologies might avoid coming to the attention of “important” persons.

Meanwhile, Glenn Greenwald has written an excellent overview of the militarisation of the police in the USA.

Also in recent days, the police in Ferguson have released video purporting to show Michael Brown robbing a convenience or grocery store, unarmed but apparently willing to use his large size for intimidation.  Whether the video shows Mike Brown or not, it is a huge red herring.  No one disputes that Brown was unarmed when he was shot to death, many witnesses attest to the fact that he had his hands up and was surrendering when he was shot to death, and the closest witness to the events who is not hiding behind police secrecy, Darian Johnson, says that Brown was not being violent or criminal, but merely walking down a street when he was accosted by a police officer who shot him to death a few minutes later.

Police officers murdering Americans is nothing new.  Several thousand cases are shown here: http://stolenlives.org/ That list starts in 1990, so it neglects events like the deliberate bombing by the FBI and Philadelphia police of the MOVE headquarters, among other events.

Given all these facts, what should a freedom loving individual do?  Going to Ferguson, Missouri to protest didn’t make anyone more free, but it did give the police plenty of opportunity to test out military hardware.  Petitioning the government for redress of grievances has a nice sound to it, but it has been centuries since that language was first written into the constitution.

I’m reminded of Jim Morrison’s performance when he shouted, “You CANNOT petition the Lord with prayer!!”  You can, of course, petition the government if that seems like a good use of your time.  But don’t be surprised if you get a form letter in the mail thanking you for your interest in [fill in the blank] and completely ignoring the sense of your comments.

It seems to me that among things you should do is use technologies available to you to maintain your privacy, anonymity, freedom, and self-sovereignty.  You should do what you think is the right thing to do.  You should not expect any government to have your best interests at heart.  Since your best interests are your own, you’ll have to continue to be the best defender of them.

Please choose freedom.