WASHINGTON, D.C. – Green Party leaders and candidates are calling for the demilitarization of civilian U.S. police departments, asserting that military police tactics have created an “occupation mentality” in many communities.
Greens said that abuses of police power and disregard for the lives of young black people were on display in the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer, threats against reporters, and a display of force that turned peaceful protest into a violent confrontation in Ferguson, Missouri. Greens expressed support for the protesters.
“The murder of Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson must be investigated and prosecuted aggressively, but the crisis won’t end with the punishment of an individual police officer,” said Howie Hawkins, Green candidate for governor of New York (http://www.howiehawkins.org). “Out-of-control police who respond to minor violations with overwhelming force, toleration of racist cops, siege-like conditions in some cities and city neighborhoods, and record-high incarceration – all of these are evidence of a growing police state.” (See Mr. Hawkins’ statement: “Ferguson, Militarization, Federal Jurisdiction in Police Brutality,” August 20, http://www.howiehawkins.org/ferguson_militarization_police_brutality)
Greens said that the shooting and subsequent behavior of police in Ferguson exposed an occupation mentality in which a mostly-white police force (only three black officers out of 53) and municipal government (white mayor, white police chief, one black city council member out of six) dominate a population that’s 67 percent black.
Rosa Clemente, the Green Party’s 2008 vice-presidential nominee, has published an on-the-scene report from the protests: see “Police Draw Guns on Rosa Clemente, Talib & Others in Ferguson” (August 20, http://www.gp.org/police-draw-guns-on-rosa-clemente-talib-others-in-ferguson).
See also “America: Young Black Men Have No Right to Life” by Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report, August 13, http://blackagendareport.com/content/america-young-black-men-have-no-right-life) and “Asking the Hard Questions About Ferguson” by John Halle, former Green member of the New Haven, Connecticut, Board of Alderman (CounterPunch, August 15-17, http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/08/15/asking-the-hard-questions-about-ferguson/).
“One sign of a police state is the use of police and prosecutors to solve everyday problems that a sane society would resolve in other ways,” said Eugene Puryear, D.C. Statehood Green Party candidate for At-Large Member of D.C. Council (http://www.EugenePuryear.com). “When jaywalking provokes a violent police response, when SWAT teams are deployed against people suspected of possessing small amounts of marijuana, then ‘law and order’ becomes a sham.”
“Democratic and Republican elected officials wanting to appear ‘tough on crime’ must be held accountable for laws and policies that have resulted in the country’s incarceration rate – per capita the highest in the world. This has been further aggravated by the Pentagon’s generous shipments of armed vehicles, military ordnance, body armor, and other wartime equipment to police departments that don’t need these things for police work,” added Mr. Puryear.
Greens listed steps that must be taken to correct police-state conditions and bring justice to the U.S. criminal justice system:
End mass incarceration and abolish the prison-industrial complex, in which private prison firms and contractors boost profits by filling up more cells, creating an economic incentive for draconian laws and criminal justice policies. (Democratic and Republican politicians accept generous contributions from the private-prison industry; Greens accept no corporate money and support an end to corporate contributions for candidates and parties.)
End racial disparities in arrests and sentencing (including the death penalty); end the school-to-prison pipeline for black, brown, and poor young people – both men and women; abolish racial profiling, “stop and frisk” policing, and harassment without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity (criminalization of “Walking While Black”).
Place restraints on police and prosecutorial power by abolishing zero tolerance, interference in judicial discretion (e.g., mandatory sentencing and “three strikes”), disproportionate police responses and charges for low-level offenses, prosecution of children as adults, and impunity for police and prosecutors who abuse their power; place police abuse cases under federal jurisdiction to eliminate conflicts of interest when local district attorneys investigate such cases.
End the militarization of police, including training in military tactics and possession of military ammunition and vehicles even in small-town police departments; outlaw overwhelming force using combat equipment in response to minor offenses and nonviolent protest.
Cancel the failed and wasteful war on drugs; end policies that treat drug abuse as a criminal instead of medical or social problem; require federal agencies to respect decriminalization statutes passed in some states and cities.
End the criminalization and harassment of immigrants (documented as well as undocumented) and transformation of border areas into military zones – most recently evident in proposals that would deny asylum to young children fleeing violence and extreme poverty in Central America.
Restore privacy and constitutional protections from government power: end the NSA’s mass surveillance dragnet; end the criminalization of whistleblowers and investigative journalists (conducted with unprecedented intensity by the Obama Administration); outlaw harassment, infiltration, and provocation directed against organizations and individuals who express dissent.
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