US policing [...] is increasingly seen by the police themselves as a form of counterinsurgency, designed to control hostile populations whose lives lack value. As if they were operating in Iraq or Afghanistan, US police infiltrate and spy on adversary networks, stop and search people at will, and bust down doors in the middle of the night with guns drawn. Recently the Guardian revealed that Chicago has been operating “the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site”—a detention facility where arrestees, some of them minors, are held off the books, with no recourse to legal advice, and are often shackled for long periods and even beaten during interrogation. Just as US soldiers have killed hundreds of Iraqi civilians for not stopping at checkpoints—which are often poorly marked—so Scott lost his life for running away from a traffic stop.
For people of color and the poor, the United States is becoming a war zone. Anyone skeptical should consider the numbers. Estimates of how many insurgent and civilian foreigners the United States has killed by drone vary; the highest estimate, roughly 5,241 over 13 years, comes from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. That is 403 deaths a year. In the United States, a recent government report revealed that over eight years (2003 through 2009 plus 2011), police killed an average of 928 people each year. That’s more than twice as many as the highest estimate of drone deaths in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan combined. (Details of individual deaths can be found at Killedbypolice.net.)
The four American security contractors working for Blackwater Worldwide, who were just sentenced by a US federal judge for randomly killing 14 innocent civilians in Baghdad, claimed to be acting in self-defense, until their story broke down. Likewise, after North Charleston, South Carolina police officer Michael Slager shot Scott in the back as he ran away, Slager reported that they had struggled and that he was acting in self-defense. Had a witness not made a video of Slager shooting Scott in the back as he ran away, we would not have known the truth.
But the people at ground zero, African-Americans at home and Muslims abroad, don’t need videos to know the truth. The truth is that the American deployment of violence has gone badly off the rails. Violence is always described in carefully crafted official statements as discriminate or unavoidable; wrongful deaths as regrettable and unusual errors of judgement. The truth, though, is that violence is now often the first resort. Acting under cover of law, weaponized Americans have become a lawless force.