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The militarization of local law enforcement agencies, and the misplaced use of such militarized forces against ordinary citizens, reached a ridiculous level yesterday at a peaceful rally outside of Chicago.

Allison Killkenny of The Nation sets the scene:

Hundreds of people gathered at a major Walmart distribution center Monday in Elwood, Illinois to stand in solidarity with workers who have been on strike since mid-September in response to unsafe working conditions and unfair wages.
Community leaders, faith organizations and various union members – including those from the Chicago Teachers Union – gathered together and marched to the Walmart distribution center. They marched in solidarity with thirty-eight workers who have been striking due to horrible conditions chronicled in a recent Warehouse Workers for Justice report. In that report, one worker described the conditions in this way:
"No one should come to work and endure extreme temperatures, inhale dust and chemical residue, and lift thousands of boxes weighing up to 250lbs with no support. Workers never know how long the work day will be- sometimes its two hours, sometimes its 16 hours. Injuries are common, as is discrimination against women and illegal retaliation against workers who speak up for better treatment."
walmart
Photo via labor/community organizer @daneyvilla
After the rally, thirteen clergy and community leaders sat down in the road, blocking the distribution center's entrance and stopping the flow of goods. The act of civil disobedience was entirely peaceful, and while law enforcement was well within their rights to remove the protesters, the situation was entirely placid.

Here's a look at those who were sitting in solidarity in the road (post-detention):

walmart1
Photo via labor/community organizer @daneyvilla
And what force was used to remove these civilians from their sitting positions? The Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System Mobile Field Force, replete with riot gear, a Humvee and a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD).

Here's a look at their webpage to give you a sense of the police force which responded:

walmart2

And this is what the scene looked like when they moved in:

walmart3
Photo via labor/community organizer @daneyvilla

walmart4
Photo via labor/community organizer @daneyvilla

walmart5
Photo via labor/community organizer @daneyvilla

walmart6
Photo via labor/community organizer @daneyvilla

walmart7
Photo via labor/community organizer @daneyvilla

This is the type of response peaceful citizens now receive when engaging in non-threatening civil disobedience.

Yes, it was successful, for not only did the multi-million dollar facility shut down for a time, but more press was paid to those workers who were either suspended or fired when they went to management complaining of the horrible conditions at the Walmart center (run by Walmart contractor Roadlink).

However, despite the rally's success, it is most troubling that the use of militarized force is becoming normative during the most peaceful of gatherings.

Police forces are becoming accustomed, after playing with their new toys, to using such force as though it is both legitimate and necessary.

It is neither.


Author's Note:

Here is raw video of the arrests:

 
 
 
 
 
 


Video streaming by Ustream

Originally posted to Writing by David Harris Gershon on Tue Oct 02, 2012 at 08:27 AM PDT.

Also republished by Invisible People, Income Inequality Kos, In Support of Labor and Unions, and Anti-Capitalist Chat.

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