Many question the moral authority of the rioting in Ferguson that was triggered by yet another killing of an unarmed teen. The rioting is a symptom of a larger nationwide trend of resistance to the encroaching police state, and specifically the ability of law enforcement officials to kill, maim, and harass without consequence.
The riots began before all of the facts were gathered about the shooting. The timing of the riot is important. Preemptive rioting and the destruction of private property is the third step in a historical cycle that has played out since the foundation of governments. It is a five step cycle that ends in widespread rebellion and insurrection.
5 steps to insurgency
Prior to the digital age, pamphlets were the main method of spreading dissent around the world. The pamphlets examined and questioned the authority of the contemporary governments and control systems. In the modern world, pamphlets have been replaced by blogs, social media, and to a smaller degree, adversarial journalists.
Once the seed of dissent is planted, people take to the streets to voice their opposition to the government. These protests occur after the control systems of the era attempt to diffuse an offending incident.
Preemptive rioting follows a period of reactive protests that go unanswered by the government. The people begin taking to the streets and destroying private and public property as soon as an offending incident takes place, rather than waiting and hoping for the government to police itself.
Military or Law Enforcement backlash and crackdowns:
These riots and small incidents of resistance trigger a government reaction. The control systems of the country tighten their grip on the people and further curtail civil liberties and infringe on people’s rights. The government crackdown fuels the resistance movement as more people tire of government intrusion.
Widespread rebellion and insurrection:
At some point during the crackdown, an incident occurs that tosses a match into the powder keg of dissent. At this point, open rebellion occurs.
To showcase an example most Americans are familiar with, the American Revolution provides a clear instance for every phase of the cycle. As early as 1765, agitators were distributing pamphlets and making speeches. Patrick Henry made his “If this be treason, make the most of it speech!” speech that year (Pamphlet Phase). The government was unresponsive to the cries of the people and protests began. In 1770, British troops opened fire on one such protest in Boston. It is known today as the Boston Massacre (Reactive Protest Phase). The King continued to press colonials until preemptive rioting and violence began. While the 1773 Boston Tea Party is the most famous, violence was initiated in almost all colonial ports. In Annapolis, a ship was set ablaze along with its tea (Preemptive Rioting Phase). British authorities could see the coming conflict and attempted to seize arms from the colonials (Military or Law Enforcement Crackdown Phase). When the colonists of Lexington and Concord resisted, the colonies were plunged into open insurrection (Rebellion Phase).
Throughout history the same five phases repeat. The Tea Parties were not just about the Tea Act, they were a strike against the government for a collection of insults and intrusions. Much like the riots in Ferguson, the participants gave little thought to the private property destroyed during the action. Much the same way law enforcement looks at all of the innocent people killed as collateral damage or an unfortunate accident; the rioters in Ferguson (and during the Revolution) see the destruction as justified.
This will not be an isolated case. More and more people are warming to the idea of using violence against police forces that are constantly overstepping their bounds. An armed citizenry will resist oppression and it will be those carrying out the enforcement of unjust laws that become the target of resistance. In other countries during the Preemptive Rioting cycle, law enforcement officers are targeted while they are on duty, and their families are targeted while at home. Even the respected Founding Fathers of this country engaged in attacking government officials at home. Customs official Thomas Hutchinson’s home was attacked and his family barely escaped with their lives.
Without serious reform in what’s left of the justice system, the future is not one of officers walking free after killing an unarmed person; it will be one of officers becoming the target of sporadic violence. Despite the propaganda, being a cop in the United States is safer than being a trash collector. That will change, and officers will become targets of opportunity for those that previously sought reform through peaceful means.
Those in departments that have excused the actions of their officers and made significant peaceful reform impossible, have now set the stage for their officers to be shot while sitting at traffic lights. Only 61% of murders are solved in the United States. Imagine how hard it will be to solve an officer’s murder that is completely random and lacks a direct connection to the shooter. Without a clear motive, there is no place to even start investigating.
This riot is the warning sign of a very dangerous future for cops. This wasn’t an isolated shooter taking out cops; this was a large percentage of the population expressing rage at the rampant police brutality and corruption. It is doubtful that departments will get a second warning. The time for reform is now. Otherwise, the body count the news is reciting is more likely to be that of officers than of unarmed citizens.
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
–John F. Kennedy
Editors Addition: Don’t take this as a threat to anyone, particularly law enforcement. It is a simple statement of fact with predictions based on logical consequences. As the police isolate themselves behind gas masks, barricades and the thin blue line, they become the anonymous “other”. As their authority and capricious violence tightens they become the symbol as well as the means of oppression. This is the second armed rebellion in the US this year. There was the Tea Party inspired Sagebrush Rebellion which effectively forced withdrawal of federal forces and now the ongoing resurrection in Ferguson which can be characterized as Occupy inspired. Should these two seemingly disparate movements merge, and with the militarized police propensity to over reaction, we could be headed toward very interesting/dangerous times.