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FLASHPOINT FERGUSON: Tin soldiers and Jay Nixon's comin'

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Is it a bit of a sad irony that the line from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s 1970 hit “Ohio” – “Tin soldiers and Nixon’s comin’ …” could apply today, as Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon deploys National Guard troops into the fractured St. Louis suburb of Ferguson?

Well, much to my shock, the hapless Democrat Gov. Nixon did that today, just as Gov. Jim Rhodes of Ohio infamously entered the history books by sending in the National Guard onto the campus of Kent State University on May 4, 1970, all the while calling the protesting anti-war students “un-American revolutionaries,” worsening an already explosive situation.

This Vietnam War protest at Kent State came after President Richard M. Nixon (no relation, at least we don’t think so ) had announced that U.S. armed forces were involved in an “incursion” into neighboring Cambodia, exacerbating a situation where the war would spread and more students would potentially be drafted.

As CSN&Y reminded us “this summer I hear the drummin’, four dead in Ohio …”

Fast-forward 44 years to 2014 and you have a situation where a young man, Michael Brown, is shot multiple times and killed by a trigger-happy white cop. Autopsy reports indicate one of the multiple shots featured a shot to the top of Brown's skull indicating he was likely shot execution style. 

There was already a lot of problems in Ferguson, the situation and current unrest was exacerbated by Brown’s shooting. This was a community already on edge in an America that is teetering ever closer to the tipping point. And don’t be shocked that militarized police in Missouri – with battlefield toys courtesy of the Pentagon – have been trained to respond to a situation like Ferguson with lethal force.

Some reports coming in are noting the menacing presence of the New Black Panther Party and predominantly white communist group from Illinois - Revolution Club Chicago - among the mostly peaceful protesters in Ferguson. It is being suggested that these radical groups are fomenting violence and may be instigating clashes with police that seem to be looking for a fight. Read Radley Balko's Rise of the Warrior Cop (which we reviewed here) and learn how many of these clashes could be avoided by increased community policing, accountability and transparency.

But many police departments balk at those three things. They often have the attitude that they know what's best and, with that, many newly-hired cops have served in the military and in battle. Many bring that militaristic attitude into their departments, so getting an MRAP seems to make sense as the siege mentality spreads. 

And while there was some calm after what seemed to be the worst part of the protests had passed,  the true uprising seemed to be sparked as more rubber bullets fell and the tear gas billows through that community and angry words are exchanged. Journalists simply doing their job are being targeted by crazed cops who have violently transitioned into a paramilitary force. The enforced curfew was ignored by many. 

From the World Socialist Web Site: "Police posted claims on Twitter around 9:15 p.m. saying that officers had been attacked by demonstrators and that 'tactical units' were being deployed. Rubber bullets and sound cannons were also deployed against the crowd, according to reports.

Numerous children and youth were present at the demonstration, as confirmed by reporters from the World Socialist Web Site who were on site during the hours leading up to the police assault and by multiple eyewitness reports from other journalists. Live tweeting from the street, journalist Amy K. Nelson wrote that “the tear gas is relentless,” saying that 'multiple tear gas cops' told her they 'weren’t going to let up.' Nelson quoted a man walking through the crowd carrying his daughter, who said, 'It’s not even curfew yet and they’re firing tear gas and the baby almost got it.'"

What we are seeing in Ferguson - in addition to a delayed, visceral reaction to the 2008 Wall Street crash and endless wars - is a working class community completely under siege by the ruling class that is protected by militarized police - a major arm of increasingly harsh state repression. After all, the state does not want the people complaining about the way things are. They refuse to admit their many mistakes. Rampant racism. The failed and destructive Drug War. An expansion of the brutal private-prison industry. Ever-widening income disparity. And fewer decent jobs available for the masses. 

We should probably be surprised there aren't more uprisings taking place in America in these dozen-or-so years since 9/11 completely turned our world upside down. I suspect that Ferguson may be the flashpoint. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: A rally in solidarity with the folks in Ferguson will be held on Thursday at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Learn more here

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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