Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Guns for hire

The newest wrinkle in the Ferguson protests is the arrival of the Oath Keepers to help "protect" private businesses that have been subject to looting, such as Natalie's Cakes and More.  Sam Andrews took a personal interest in Natalie DuBose's story, which was aired on television, and vowed to protect her establishment as well as others in the area.

Sam heads up the local Missouri chapter of Oath Keepers, which according to its national webpage is in all 50 states and numbers 40,000 strong.  This paramilitary organization has strong right-wing leanings, but apparently Sam wanted to show that Oath Keepers is non-discriminatory, after the Cliven Bundy fiasco, by protecting local black business owners' interests.

This represents another headache for local and state police forces who are having enough trouble dealing with the situation on the ground.  Now, they have to watch out for snipers on rooftops.  St. Louis County Police ordered the Oath Keepers to clear the area, but Andrews is challenging the injunction in court.  As you would expect, Fox 2 Now was on the scene to get Andrews' side of the story.

The Oath Keepers were formed in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, and if the numbers are to be believed, has spread into a huge paramilitary force that actively recruits current and former National Guard reservists, military soldiers, police officers, and even fire fighters to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, according to its webpage.

The number of militia groups since the election of Obama has grown tremendously.  If you look at this bar graph put together by the Southern Poverty League, you see that these "patriot" movements swelled in the wake of the Ruby Ridge and Waco incidents, dissipated during the latter years of the Clinton administration and the Bush tenure, only to sharply rise again under Obama. The biggest spike in such groups was in 2011.  The Oath Keepers doesn't see itself as a "hate group" although its motivations have been called into question by various periodicals.  As Justine Sharrock notes in the article, many of the federal policies the Oath Keepers have spoken out against were initiated under the Bush administration.

In an effort to ease the situation in Ferguson and other cities where these protests have spread, Pres. Obama has requested 250,000 police body cameras as part of a new appropriations bill to offset the military ordnance these police departments now have ready access to through federal equipment programs.  The President is hoping to demilitarize local police departments, which has been on full display in Ferguson, with police officers dressed in military riot gear and sporting army-issue firearms, but no body cameras.

Cities that have mandated body cameras have seen a sharp drop in police brutality incidents.  In Albuquerque, a police officer was fired for turning off his body camera, before shooting a 19-year old woman he claimed pulled a gun on him.

Each year there are a reported 400 persons shot and killed by police, far more than any other Western country.  This is just a partial database of 750 local agencies, out of an estimated 17,000.  Many of the victims are under 21.  Some as young as 12.  This despite the fact violent crime has steadily dropped over the past decade and is at its lowest level since the 1970s.

It seems many persons still see our cities as urban war zones, with police departments requiring the necessary firepower to combat violent gangs that roam the city streets.  We also have politicians stirring up emotions over Islamist movements within our cities, generating the same kind of paranoia that characterized America in the turbulent 60s and early 70s.

Yet, we are told by Fox News pundits that it isn't Lindsey Graham pouring gasoline onto the fire.  It is Rev. Al Sharpton.  Well, we all know Reverend Al is an ambulance chaser, but why call him out specifically?  Of course, Sean Hannity takes it two steps further, adding Pres. Obama and US Attorney General Eric Holder.  Look who was there to back him?  None other than notorious former LAPD detective Mark Furhman, whose own racism was probably the main reason O.J. Simpson was acquitted.  Hmmm?

Right on cue, the Oath Keepers step into the breach, kind of like the Pinkerton Gang of the 19th century (which still exists today), to restore law and order at the point of a barrel.  These vigilante snipers add a scary new dimension to crises, as we saw in the Cliven Bundy standoff early this year.  This "cattle-rustling" incident looked like a page ripped from the annals of the Old West.  This time around, the Missouri chapter of the Oath Keepers is in Ferguson to protect Black small business interests.

It seems Stewart Rhodes, the founder of Oath Keepers, is savvy enough to understand the importance of demographics.  He is a Yale-educated lawyer, who at one time supervised interns for Texas Congressman Ron Paul.  This Libertarian-minded Oath Keeper traces the roots of his organization back to the American Revolution, and sees Obama less as President as he does King George III.

It seems to me that the main problem in our restless society is that there are way too many firearms available, and that any Tom, Dick or Harry can come together and form a "militia" in the name of the Second Amendment.  This despite a steadily decreasing national crime rate, better border security and distant international conflagrations that have no bearing on our national security.  But, woe be it to anyone to question the sanctity of the Second Amendment!

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