by Casey J. Bastian
For decades, American law enforcement apparatuses have embraced an ideology of going to “war” against the American people. Under the guise of being “tough on crime,” addressing societal issues has instead become an opportunity to offend individual liberty and rights. This country has chosen to go to war on drugs, crime, terror – take your pick. All have been failures. Now there appears to be a war on peaceful protests.
Since George Floyd died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, several people have been killed while protesting. On June 1, 2020, the National Guard killed David McAtee in Louisville, Kentucky. The next day, undercover police in Vallejo, California, gunned down Sean Monterrosa. The U.S. Marshals “hunted down” and “neutralized” both Michael Reinoehl and Winston Smith, Jr. The year 2022 “was the most lethal year on record for police-civilian encounters.”
This year, police have killed Tyree Nichols, Keenan Anderson, and Manuel Esteban Paez Teran. Teran was killed in Atlanta’s South River Forest protesting the construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center (“APSTC”), infamously referred to as “Cop City.” For two years, Teran was one of hundreds living in tents and treehouses hoping to block the APSTC’s development. It is clear the citizens support these protestors. When the public comment period was open “nearly 70 percent of the 1,166 responders expressed opposition” to Cop City’s construction.
Clearly, the politicians forgot whose interests they represent. It is more important to make the public accept the will of the Atlanta Police Foundation (“APF”). The APF is a “veritable who’s who of corporate power and inherited wealth.” In 2022, the APF provided large sums of money to lobby for Cop City. The politicians appear to listen to the APF.
On January 18, 2023, agents from nine agencies, including the FBI and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, descended on the unarmed activists. The agencies orders were clear: “eliminate the future [APSTC] of criminal activity.” The disturbing view of law enforcement is one of civilian will, unarmed activism, and peaceful protest as radical criminal activity. This action could be construed as the first training exercise at the APSTC in the war on protesting, which does not bode well for the future.
The Georgia Governor has upped the ante, vowing to “bring the full force of state and local law enforcement down on those trying to bring about a radical agenda” while demanding “swift and exact justice” with the goal of “ending their activities.” And the police have now forever ended Teran’s activities. Governor Kemp can consider it mission accomplished. Kemp has also given 1,000 members of the National Guard “the same powers of arrest and apprehension” as law enforcement. An act similar to that which resulted in McAtee being killed.
We may never know why law enforcement opened fire on Teran and the others. There is no body camera footage and no desire to conduct an after-action investigation either. No rational person needs an inquiry to see what went wrong. America has a hyper-aggressive, militarized law enforcement apparatus. These apparatuses (of which the federal government has become the puppet-master) revel in a “military-style chain of command” that operates as if “at war with enemies foreign and domestic.” Americans exercising their First Amendment rights are increasingly viewed as the enemy by militarized law enforcement.
As agencies like Homeland Security conflate tree-sits with terrorist acts and the courts continue to provide a license to kill they call qualified immunity, more citizens will die. As militarization increases, so too does the loss of life. There is “no observable effect on measures of crime or safety.” The law enforcement systems in place today are supplemented by the “tools, tactics, technologies, and advanced weaponry” from “America’s counterinsurgency wars overseas.” These things are then “imported, requisitioned, and reinvented” to be used on American citizens.
Programs like the Pentagon’s 1033 Program, Homeland Security’s Urban Areas Security Initiative, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and the private-sector Law Enforcement Charitable Foundation all work towards creating systems of war within the borders of the country. Until we demand an end to any type of “war” against the citizens law enforcement is supposed to be protecting, tragedies like the killing of Teran will continue. And make no mistake about what Teran’s killing was: “an extrajudicial execution, carried out by hired men armed with military assault weapons, paramilitary training, and qualified immunity from prosecution – in other words, a death squad in all but the name.”
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