Missouri Gears Up for Military Response to Ferguson Protests

A Grand Jury decision on issuing an indictment of police involved in the Ferguson Missouri shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer is expected with in days, perhaps even hours. Missouri, and the nation in general await, as decision not to indict is expected to be met with large scale protests while a decision to indict may well be met by celebration. Either way, Governor Nixon of Missouri has sent clear messages that protests will be met with repression.

The Governor has declared a state of emergency ahead of the allegedly unknown outcome and mobilized 400 members of the Missouri National Guard. These troops will have been deployed to the St. Louis area and have been sighted sleeping en mass in local hotel rooms. They are deployed to augment the 1000 police from St. Louis Area. The State Highway Patrol, already trained to suppress protests, and are on standby.

Additionally, anti-police brutality activists in Ferguson and elsewhere have issued reports of cell-phone jamming. Analysis of the recordings of this jamming by Outsider News staff seems to indicate, as has been rumored, that it is being done by a non-governmental third party without authorized access to the network.

Such actions if confirmed would be in violation of several federal communications laws. The local activists, calling themselves the Canfield Watchmen, suspect that the phone jamming is being done to disrupt live-streaming from camera phones during incidents of police brutality. Organizers with the group WeCopWatch, which works with the Canfield Watchmen, reported their cell-phone experiencing jamming only when calling Ferguson and provided the Outsider with video and audio of the jamming.

The alleged jamming comes against a backdrop of other attempts by law enforcement to limit media scrutiny of their interactions with protestors in Ferguson. The Associated Press reported that Ferguson Police used unsubstantiated claims of gunfire at police helicopters to get the FAA do declare a no-fly zone over the area during protests.

When this no-fly zone began to interfere with national airline traffic, it was reduced to 3,000 feet in order to specifically prevent media helicopters from filming police conduct during demonstrations. Combined with previous outright attacks and arrests on journalists, it is likely to have a chilling effect on the media during any protests following the grad jury decision.

The 400 National Guardsmen mobilized thus far represent a little over two companies of military police. Missouri has eight such companies under the 70th Troop Command.

Because many military police can also actually be civilian police, these National Guard units will likely be drawn from outside the St Louis area. According to US Army field manuals, a single military police company can provide indefinite detention guard for up to 2000 prisoners of war.

Ferguson has a population of 21,000 of which roughly 15,000 are adults. The police and National Guard have already deployed one policeman or soldier for every 10  adults in the city and have the necessary personnel to indefinitely detain one quarter of the adult population already on hand.

After the US military was deployed to Los Angles following the Rodney King riots, some 10,000 people were arrested and the majority of them spent over 10 years in prison.

Time will tell the results of the Grand Jury’s decision and how the police and military will react to already planned peaceful protests. If recent history and preparations are any guide, it appears that this will be a bad holiday season for civil rights in Missouri

Date Originally Published: 
Friday, November 21, 2014
Article originally published at: 
Gerry Bello