National Guard Arrives in Ferguson
The request for the arrival of the National Guard to Ferguson, Missouri is a savvy (albeit counter-intuitive) move by the Missouri governor to reduce unrest. Because the US government did not directly request — “federalize” — the National Guard, their deployment to Ferguson is not legally defined as deployment.
Because the black community has expressed their fury and frustration at the “disrespect” directed at them by the Ferguson police for many years, law enforcement’s continued presence, particularly in military gear and equipment, would only escalate the crisis. The National Guard is a de facto UN peacekeeping force (or should we now say “US peacekeeping force”), a neutral crowd-control mechanism whose presence placates the community to a certain degree, and relieves the pressure on local law enforcement. Additionally, the National Guard’s occupying presence is temporary, versus a permanent presence by local police. This maneuver also buys time, though not much, for review and negotiation.
Now just think how astounding it is that Missouri deployed an overwhelming force to quell unrest in a small community of about 21,000 residents. We’ve deployed fewer soldiers to occupy Iraqi cities. Compare Ferguson to larger communities with fury and frustration, notably the NYC neighborhoods of Brownsville and East New York. Brownsville has a population of about 58,000, 98% of which are people of color. East New York has a population of 183,000, of which 88% are people of color. In both of these neighborhoods, almost half the families live below the poverty line. Compared this to Ferguson, where about 20% of residents fall in under the poverty line. Just imagine how much law enforcement and/or military force would be required to quell a similar disturbance in Brownsville and East New York, with a combined population of 241,000, or 11 times the population of Ferguson? Or in cities with almost the same population such as Orlando or St. Petersburg, Florida, or closer to NYC like Jersey City.
Ferguson is a microcosm of what could happen to large communities in cities throughout the US whose residents have been economically and geographically marginalized for years, as has already occurred in Paris and London. US law enforcement officers adamantly insist that such disturbances would never spiral out of control because of their closer relationships with the community. The movie The Siege (1998) — produced well before 9/11 and eerily prescient – released at the time as a far-flung fantasy plot, is a blueprint of what can occur. Even Major General Devereaux (played by Bruce Willis,) implored the politicos to not deploy the Army to occupy the cities.
Under the “wrong” circumstances, the influence of even moderate community leaders can be neutralized by a new and radical community leadership who can hijack a community’s emotions and push it towards the abyss. We’re sitting on a tinderbox of exploding anger; subsequent roaring flames may be difficult to control.
The Twilight Zone high-level conversation on urban military occupation in The Siege (1998) starring Bruce Willis and Denzel Washington:
Albert Goldson is an Architectural & Engineering Contract Manager specializing in transportation mega-projects, energy, security and urban planning. An internationalist, he is a long-time Williamsburg resident.
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