† Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.
Connect the Dots ~ The Pentagon, Paramilitary Policing, Protest and You
Editor’s Note by nancy a heitzeg
CI has written extensively about the growing connections between the military industrial complex and the prison industrial complex, replete wit the escalating rhetoric, weaponry and tactics of war. While this connection is long-standing, the post 9/11 War on Terror has increased the collusion, expanded the scope of policing efforts beyond “crime” and towards domestic protest, and criminalized/militarized non-violent activism as “terrorism”. This phenomenon is not exclusive to the United States, as noted in a recent report, “Take Back The Streets: Repression and Criminalization of Protest Around the World.” The report reveals a solidification of paramilitary tactics characterized by:
- “pre-emptive suppression of protesters,
- increasingly arbitrary use of advanced surveillance technologies, informants, and agent provocateurs, .
- limited concern with the First Amendment rights of protesters and police obligation to respect and protect those rights,
- limited tolerance for community disruption, limited communication between police and demonstrators, and
- extensive use of arrests and force as a method of managing demonstrators. “
None of this is new or particularly surprising, but in light of recent news of Department of Defense preparations for controlling domestic unrest and the unabated flow of war machines to local police departments, it is perhaps worth considering the scale, scope and endgame implications.
We will leave it to you to connect the dots…..
Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown: Social science is being militarised to develop ‘operational tools’ to target peaceful activists and protest movements, guardian
by the guardian,
Launched in 2008 – the year of the global banking crisis – the DoD ‘Minerva Research Initiative’ partners with universities “to improve DoD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US.”
Among the projects awarded for the period 2014-2017 is a Cornell University-led study managed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research which aims to develop an empirical model “of the dynamics of social movement mobilisation and contagions.” …Twitter posts and conversations will be examined “to identify individuals mobilised in a social contagion and when they become mobilised.”
Last year, the DoD’s Minerva Initiative funded a project to determine ‘Who Does Not Become a Terrorist, and Why?’ which, however, conflates peaceful activists with “supporters of political violence” who are different from terrorists only in that they do not embark on “armed militancy” themselves. The project explicitly sets out to study non-violent activists:
“In every context we find many individuals who share the demographic, family, cultural, and/or socioeconomic background of those who decided to engage in terrorism, and yet refrained themselves from taking up armed militancy, even though they were sympathetic to the end goals of armed groups. The field of terrorism studies has not, until recently, attempted to look at this control group. This project is not about terrorists, but about supporters of political violence.”
The project’s 14 case studies each “involve extensive interviews with ten or more activists and militants in parties and NGOs who, though sympathetic to radical causes, have chosen a path of non-violence.”…..
One war-game involved environmental activists protesting pollution from a coal-fired plant near Missouri, some of whom were members of the well-known environmental NGO Sierra Club. Participants were tasked to “identify those who were ‘problem-solvers’ and those who were ‘problem-causers,’ and the rest of the population whom would be the target of the information operations to move their Center of Gravity toward that set of viewpoints and values which was the ‘desired end-state’ of the military’s strategy.”
Such war-games are consistent with a raft of Pentagon planning documents which suggest that National Security Agency (NSA) mass surveillance is partially motivated to prepare for the destabilising impact of coming environmental, energy and economic shocks.”
A FIERCE GREEN FIRE: The Battle for a Living Planet
IF A TREE FALLS: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
War Gear Flows to Police Departments, by Matt Apuzo, New York Times
“Congress created the military-transfer program in the early 1990s, when violent crime plagued America’s cities and the police felt outgunned by drug gangs. Today, crime has fallen to its lowest levels in a generation, the wars have wound down, and despite current fears, the number of domestic terrorist attacks has declined sharply from the 1960s and 1970s.
Police departments, though, are adding more firepower and military gear than ever. Some, especially in larger cities, have used federal grant money to buy armored cars and other tactical gear. And the free surplus program remains a favorite of many police chiefs who say they could otherwise not afford such equipment…
The number of SWAT teams has skyrocketed since the 1980s, according to studies by Peter B. Kraska, an Eastern Kentucky University professor who has been researching the issue for decades.
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….”