There's One Disturbing Factor That Causes Cops to Use Force Against Protesters

The number of African-Americans involved. Police are more likely to deploy against African-American protesters than white ones, according to a 2011 study published in the American Sociological Review. And as Washington Post columnist Kim Yi Dionne keenly points out, the massive police crackdown on the mostly black community of Ferguson, Mo., is a prime example.

In sampling over 15,000 protests from 1960-1990, researchers discovered that police were more likely to arrest people, use force or both when black protesters were involved. While the disparity in the use-of-force has lessened since 1970, the researchers emphasize that the effect of "protesting while black" varies over time, but does not disappear.

It's hard to argue that this is not a pattern of overt and systemic mistreatment.

Just look at Ferguson: This is happening in Missouri right now.

The study doesn't prove police arrive to beat up black people, but it demonstrates they're more likely to consider protests involving them as threats to public order. What's more, the tactics police use can easily anger or provoke the crowd, and therefore create the perfect opportunity for authorities to justify force.

In Ferguson, media and community members said that police crackdowns on protests preceded and helped trigger the breakdown of order across the community.



As policing expert Jason Fritz told Vox, "Trying to intimidate the crowds off the street, especially considering that it's a protest against police aggression — well, it's just stupid. It's going to exacerbate the problem."

He suspects there's an additional reason that cops reacted so violently in Ferguson: The billions of dollars in high-grade military hardware the Pentagon has handed out to American police departments. "They have the toys, and they just want to play with them, to put it bluntly," Fritz said to Vox.

Finally, besides the terrifying implications of bringing military hardware to bear on protesters, less-lethal weapons like rubber bulletstear gas and batons are still instruments of harm that can cause horrible injuries. Black Americans are disproportionately more likely to have these weapons brought to bear on them.

Why you should care: If you're wondering why this still occasionally happens ...

... remember that it has a lot to do with an entrenched legacy of police brutality against and repression of black Americans.

h/t the Washington Post

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

MORE FROM

Kshama Sawant on why Seattle needs an independent investigation into the Charleena Lyles shooting

Seattle City Councilperson Kshama Sawant, member of Socialist Alternative party, discusses the Charleena Lyles investigation, tenant voter registration, why Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 and more.

The EPA seeks to undo clean water rule, putting 117 million Americans' water at risk

The new rule could have "long-reaching consequences for everyone living in the United States.”

This small Ohio town might stop treating heroin overdoses to save the city money

"People will die. It's plain and simple."

Here's what New York's first official LGBTQ monument will look like

Here's our first look at New York's new monument to LGBT communities.

How will Trump's travel ban be enforced? Here's what the Supreme Court's decision really means.

The Supreme Court's order prevents most of the ban from taking effect before the case is heard, with limited exceptions.

Tick saliva could be the key to fighting a dangerous heart condition

Ticks could hold the secret to treating this heart condition.

Kshama Sawant on why Seattle needs an independent investigation into the Charleena Lyles shooting

Seattle City Councilperson Kshama Sawant, member of Socialist Alternative party, discusses the Charleena Lyles investigation, tenant voter registration, why Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 and more.

The EPA seeks to undo clean water rule, putting 117 million Americans' water at risk

The new rule could have "long-reaching consequences for everyone living in the United States.”

This small Ohio town might stop treating heroin overdoses to save the city money

"People will die. It's plain and simple."

Here's what New York's first official LGBTQ monument will look like

Here's our first look at New York's new monument to LGBT communities.

How will Trump's travel ban be enforced? Here's what the Supreme Court's decision really means.

The Supreme Court's order prevents most of the ban from taking effect before the case is heard, with limited exceptions.

Tick saliva could be the key to fighting a dangerous heart condition

Ticks could hold the secret to treating this heart condition.