In a bid to bring armored vehicles to the small, capital city of Concord, New Hampshire, the local police department is trying to exploit peaceful activist groups such as Occupy New Hampshire and the libertarian Free State Project as "terror threats."
Through a right to know request, the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union (NHCLU)—as part of an ongoing project against the militarization of local law enforcement agencies—obtained a grant filed by the Concord Police Department requesting $258,000 from the Department of Homeland Security for an armored BearCat vehicle.
"The State of New Hampshire’s experience with terrorism slants primarily towards the domestic type," the grant states, adding that—with groups such as the "Free Staters" and Occupy NH active and presenting "daily challenges"—the "threat is real and here."As the expression goes, if all you've got is a hammer, pretty soon everything starts to look like a nail. Or, to paraphrase, when you want your police department to get the same cool toys someone else has, soon everything looks like an existential threat.
The proposal also exposes the change in attitude of police departments across the country over the past three decades. Once upon a time, officers walked a beat. They got to know the neighborhood. Their job was to protect the citizens from criminal acts.
Now we have police officers who dress like soldiers, who carry automatic rifles and drive armored personnel carriers. With politicians increasingly wanting to declare war on something or other, a war mentality has overtaken police departments across the nation.
The mission has changed from protecting and serving to hunting down the bad guys. And, increasingly, it's an us-against-them mindset.
The characterization of the Occupy movement as a domestic terrorist group is a perfect demonstration of the view the government has taken of political dissent - particularly in the aftermath of the 9/11 over-reaction. Turning police departments into paramilitary outfits only serves to dissuade people from exercising their rights to assemble and petition the government for redress. It only serves to intimidate those who would defend the protections afforded under the Fourth Amendment.
The record of the Occupy movement is quite clear. The only time violence erupted during an Occupy event across the country was when the police initiated the use of force. Those protesters at UC-Davis weren't being violent. They were sitting on the ground. It was the police, wearing shields and covering their badges, who broke out the tear gas and fired in into the faces of college students. It was the police in Oakland who fired percussive grenades into a crowd of protesters who were exercising their First Amendment rights.
The threat to our social order doesn't come from peaceful protesters - the threat comes from the increasing militarization of our nation's police departments.