The popular line on Ferguson, Missouri -- the site of ongoing protests over the police shooting of an 18-year-old African-American -- is that it's become an American Iraq. The Huffington Post banner reads "Baghdad USA." Lydia Polgreen, deputy International editor for The New York Times, has asked for a photo quiz called "Falluja or Ferguson?" Phillip Carter, an Iraq War veteran, says the police's military gear has transformed them "into an occupying army."
Ferguson is not Falluja, or Baghdad, but to the degree that it has caused people to lose all manner of perspective, it does resemble a war zone.
The most notable offender is, of course, the Ferguson Police Department. Jelani Cobb, a contributor to The New Yorker who writes on the subject of race and politics, was at the protetst on Wednesday night and summed it up thusly:
What transpired in the streets appeared to be a kind of municipal version of shock and awe; the first wave of flash grenades and tear gas had played as a prelude to the appearance of an unusually large armored vehicle, carrying a military-style rifle mounted on a tripod. The message of all of this was something beyond the mere maintenance of law and order: it’s difficult to imagine how armored officers with what looked like a mobile military sniper’s nest could quell the anxieties of a community outraged by allegations regarding the excessive use of force. It revealed itself as a raw matter of public intimidation.