Last night I attended a Kipuka for Change, a learning circle hosted by Hawai`i People’s Fund. The Topic was “Crossing Borders” and focused on the children from Central America. There were several UH professors there as well as people who came from struggling nations. We sat in a circle and each person introduced themselves and said why they were there in one word. It was really interesting. The words ranged from sad to confused to tolerant to sorrow.
A UH professor, Susannah Rice, spoke about the 3 countries from where the children are coming: Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. She presented a brief analysis of the history of these countries and the US involvement there. She focused on decimated economies and lack of infrastructure that force people to leave and seek better lives. She spoke about the militarization of police and the role that the war on drugs plays in immigration and crimmigration (criminalizing immigrants). That led to a discussion about Ferguson, MO, where the militarization of the local police was in evidence.
We then broke into smaller groups to meet each other and discuss these issues further. It was a very diverse crowd, which led to interesting discussions and personal stories. At the end., we closed with one word and they ranged from hope to encouragement to community to love.
There are so many ways that we can create strong, healthy, and safe communities. We must first acknowledge that we are all human beings that have the same basic needs. This is a good place to start, imho.
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Last night’s discussion prompted me to dedicate today’s post to what is going on with law enforcement. Has their mission changed from protecting the community to arming themselves against the community? On the right, a graphic of police uniforms from 1968-2011. You might say that this could never happen in Hawai`i, below are photos from Kaua`i during the Superferry demonstrations. Heavily armed swat teams against a community in speedos, surf shorts, and bikinis armed with surfboards. It IS happening here. During APEC, HPD purchased $700,000 worth of weaponry. Why? Against What? Who?
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War Gear Flows to Police Departments
Matt Apuzzo, The New York Times, June 8, 2014
“During the Obama administration, according to Pentagon data, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft….
“The ubiquity of SWAT teams has changed not only the way officers look, but also the way departments view themselves. Recruiting videos feature clips of officers storming into homes with smoke grenades and firing automatic weapons. In Springdale, Ark., a police recruiting video is dominated by SWAT clips, including officers throwing a flash grenade into a house and creeping through a field in camouflage….”
In Wake of Clashes, Calls to Demilitarize Police
Julie Bosman and Matt Apuzzo, The New York Times, August 14, 2014
“…In most instances, the government did not require training for police departments receiving military-style equipment and few if any limitations were put on its use, he said. …
“The increase in military-style equipment has coincided with a significant rise in the number of police SWAT teams, which are increasingly being used for routine duties such as conducting liquor inspections and serving warrants. …”
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2 Appeals to Congress to Stop the Militarization of Police
Our Communities Are Not War Zones
“Last week, local police fatally shot an unarmed African-American 18-year-old named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. In the days that followed, there have been massive protests in Ferguson and heavily armed SWAT teams are roaming the streets in response. Our communities are not warzones.
“And yet the police, armed to the teeth, treat us like the enemy, especially if we’re black, young, poor or homeless. Tanks are rolling through our towns. What will it take for police to start protecting communities of color, not waging war on them?
“The Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Justice are funneling billions of dollars to state and local law enforcement agencies every year to help them purchase military weaponry and equipment. What business do DOD, DHS, and DOJ have funding a war here at home?
“With our country’s long history of aggressive policing in communities of color, it shouldn’t surprise us that these wartime tools and tactics are hitting poor and black neighborhoods hardest. To start undoing the damage, the feds need to stop funding this war.
“Good policing is about trust, which has been severely eroded through the use of excessive force and police brutality. If police forces across America continue to militarize and treat communities of color as the enemy, they will increasingly be seen as an occupying army.
“Stopping the funding and incentivizing of police militarization is a crucial first step to ending this war.
“Tell the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Justice: Stop funding the siege on communities of color.”
“Police in Ferguson, Missouri could transform their town into a war zone—because of armored vehicles, assault weapons and body armor provided by the United States military.
“And police militarization has happened in cities all over the country.
“Section 1033 of a military spending bill passed in 1996 allows the Pentagon to give “surplus war material” to local police departments. Since 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security has also offered grants to local law enforcement agencies to “combat terrorism and fight the war on drugs.” As a direct result, we see situations like what we saw in Ferguson.
“Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) will soon introduce the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act in Congress—which would end the federal government’s program of providing billions of dollars worth of military equipment to local police. It’s about time.
“Sign the petition to Congress: No more Fergusons. Pass the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act.”