Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
May 19, 2015

Seeing the End of America's Homeland Paramilitary Highlight Reel?

Full disclosure, I was working on this post before yesterday’s news from the White House. That’s because, the scene of citizen soldiers applying force and will commensurate with their war-grade materiel has been sucking the life out of public culture. Especially, the lives of those who are not-white and not-rich or even middle class.

One of the primary campaign promises Obama made in 2008 was to end the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. To the extent the Bush/neocon “war on terror” — inspired by 9/11 and fueled by paranoia, prejudice and endless amounts of defense spending — was transferred to “the homeland,” perhaps Obama had finally had enough, too. I doubt anyone thinks Obama’s decision to ban military-style equipment from local law enforcement, of course, will see police claiming the title of “peace officers” overnight. A more immediate effect, however, and not an insignificant one, will be the disappearance of scenes like these from out the window.

Before the Obama announcement, I was working on highlighting at least three police assault missions on the same day, April 21st of last year, two in Ferguson and the other in Denver. And not one required calling out the army. In Colorado (above), the rumor of armed suspects was impetus enough for dispatching the military surplus and paramilitary accompaniment to what turned out to be an empty and desolate looking strip club. In Ferguson, the police response has been so amplified that multiple SWAT operations can and have been dispatched at once. The scene immediately below was based on a false report resulting in a two hour “standoff” … although nobody was even home.

In a second incident, involving at least three armored vehicles responding to the scene, a man with mental illness barricaded himself in his house after shooting his brother. Two nearby schools were also locked down. In spite of the combat squad, that man turned up at a nearby church.

The problem has not just been the physical and emotional violence inflicted on the citizenry by these disproportionate acts. It’s also the demoralization caused by their continuous display and incessant replay in and by the media. On top of the race war being carried out in Missouri, how depressing the photos are from Denver. The caption even comes with its own Catch-22:

Denver police clear the scene outside of PT’s Showclub in southwest Denver after earlier reports of armed suspects in the building, April 21, 2015. No one was found inside. “If we don’t know, it’s better for us to take precautionary measures,” said Raquel Lopez, a Denver police spokeswoman.

In this case, how fitting if the battle American police have been waging on its own citizens actually came to die in Sin City.

(Denver photos: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

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