Peaceful but emotional protests over the seemingly ceaseless violence by police and the murders of five officers in Dallas continue unabated in cities nationwide. In Baton Rouge, police shoved people into the street — and then arrested them for being in the street.
“No justice, no peace!” protesters chanted as they gathered downtown following a rally at a Methodist church to condemn the killing by police of Alton Sterling.
Though the seemingly spontaneous gathering of around 500 at the intersection of France and East didn’t resort to violence or mayhem, around 100 riot gear-clad cops showed up to police the event. One homeowner, the Daily Beast reported, offered refuge on her front lawn precisely to prevent the arrests of demonstrators for occupying the street.
But after an hour and a half, without provocation, the militarized cops decided they’d had enough and charged the crowd, causing exactly the chaos their presence ostensibly sought to prevent as protesters fled down a side street — where they were arrested for obstructing a highway.
Riot police continued the push, arresting protesters as they scattered — even though they were apparently attempting, at least to some degree, to comply with barked orders to “Clear the streets and leave the area!”
Despite the location of the assembly on private property — until, that is, the militarized thugs unnecessarily broke up the peaceful event — one riot control cop shouted through a bullhorn, “This is an unlawful assembly!”
A blue wall of police decked in riot gear — for all intents and purposes, a standing army — can be seen in video footage advancing menacingly down the street in a line extending onto people’s front lawns to chase protesters away from the gathering.
Provocation by these thug cops caused some demonstrators to lash out and throw bottled water and rocks — and the baseless show of force also upset the unnamed homeowner who had provided them safe haven.
“I’m very upset. I’m stunned,” she told told CBS News of the police’ behavior, explaining the cops had apparently “chased someone that they targeted that was actually in the street to bombard my yard and bombard my house … They were pushing the door closed on my daugher, on myself, and other people. They were pushing people — we were smushed.”
Asked by the reporter whether police tried to arrest her, the homeowner said,
“I kept telling them, ‘this is my property, please do not do that; I live here.’ I said, ‘it’s fine if [the protesters] are here’ — and they just looked at me and ignored the things that I was saying.”
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) July 11, 2016
Baton Rouge Police Lt. Johnny Dunham claimed later protesters subjected themselves to arrest prior to gathering on the homeowner’s lawn since they’d earlier obstructed public passage to an interstate on-ramp.
“Once you’ve broken the law, there is no safe space,” Dunham advised.
They "had already broken the law" Baton Rouge police explain why protesters were arrested on private property pic.twitter.com/I7pBpHPAsS
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) July 11, 2016
This arbitrary display of force didn’t end with protesters, the Daily Beast noted, as journalists lacking official credentials were also threatened with arrest and even then, were corralled into a ten-foot wide “zone.” Given a similar no-win situation as the demonstrators, journalists without credentials were forced from the zone — and then threatened with arrest for stepping foot in the street.
At least three journalists were arrested for obstructing a highway, the Daily Beast reported — including a properly-credentialed news director for WAFB.
Violence and inexplicable killings are not the only reasons for outrage against police in the U.S. — breaking up lawful, peaceful protests of that violence with riot-gear-clad officers barking orders and threatening arrests only fans the flames.
This unjustified breakup of an otherwise nonviolent protest immediately brings to mind protests and subsequent riots — largely caused by a similarly excessive show of military force — in Ferguson, Missouri, beginning in 2014 after the police killing of Michael Brown.
When a literal army decked out in the same gear as the military advances against the people of the United States, guilty of no other crime than airing grievances as protected by the Constitution, the expectation of calm flies out the window.
Make no mistake, had officers appeared on scene sans militarized equipment, there would have been no issue — no arrests, no throwing of projectiles, no resentment, and certainly no violation of the people’s right to protest.
Perhaps it’s time we recognize an uncomfortable potential thought — U.S. police have become the standing army this country’s framers so avidly warned us about.