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10 Things You Need to Know About Ferguson

The latest developments from Ferguson.

Police fire tear gas at protesters on West Florissant Road in Ferguson, Missouri on August 17, 2014

Ten days after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot to death by officer Darren Wilson, police and protestors continue to face off in the city of Ferguson. Last night's protests  broke into chaos as riot police descended on the streets of the city in an attempt to disperse protestors. 
On Monday, Gov. Jay Nixon deployed the National Guard, allegedly  without alerting the White House. The first Humvees have left the National Guard base, according to reports from the scene highlighted in  the Guardian. 
As the tense situation on the ground quickly evolves, here are 10 things you should know:
1. National Guard trained in fighting protesters.
The Missouri National Guard troops being sent into Ferguson are military police, which, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), have studied the Occupy protests and demonstrations that followed George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the Trayvon Martin murder trial. These soldiers are now trained to deal with “crowd control measures, understanding protester tactics, incident management, and operating inside an area contaminated with chemical and biological hazards,” FEMA said, in a chillingly bland  report on its website touting the anti-protester training that military police now receive.
"We serve as a force multiplier during a natural disaster or civil unrest,” a platoon leader and deputy sheriff who completed the training said. “We have experienced protest from the Occupy Movement and, most recently, from the Zimmerman trial. This training makes us all more proficient MP soldier[s] and helps us communicate more effectively with local law enforcement."
The photos on FEMA’s site show the military police practicing with protesters who are sitting down in the street and shows MPs cutting through plastic pipes that some protesters have used to chain themselves to each other. One can only imagine how military police, whose main training is designed for overseas war zones, will fare in Ferguson, where the underlying issues are institutional racism and police brutality.
2. Autopsy report: Why so many bullets?
It's not clear how many bullets were fired by Officer Darren Wilson, and whether he fired his gun while he was still in his car.
But according to a private autopsy report, Michael Brown was hit by six bullets. Four hit him on the right arm, and two hit him in the head. Some of the bullets created several entry points. 
According to the  New York Times,  "One of the bullets shattered Mr. Brown’s right eye, traveled through his face, exited his jaw and re-entered his collarbone. The last two shots in the head would have stopped him in his tracks and were likely the last fired."  
Meanwhile, eye-witness Piaget Crenshaw   said a shot was fired wildly and hit a house, and that the bullet was removed by police shortly after Brown was shot.   
3. Iraq vet: cops have more weapons than soldiers.
The violent police crackdown in Ferguson has revealed the extent to which America's police departments have become militarized, with officers wielding military-grade weapons against protestors. 
Writing on Bill, Iraq veteran Rafael Noboa y Rivera points out that police officers actually have more weapons than soldiers: 
... here we are in August of 2014, 10 years after I got back from Iraq, and the police agencies that have patrolled the streets of Ferguson, Missouri – until they were relieved of duty on Thursday amid public outrage over their heavy-handed tactics — have the kind of armor and weaponry that my men and I would have envied in the performance of our duties in an actual combat zone.

Let me repeat that: the police in Ferguson have better armor and weaponry than my men and I did in the middle of a war. And Ferguson isn’t alone — police departments across the US are armed for war.

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