A protestor takes shelter from smoke billowing around him, Ferguson, Missouri, 13 August 2014.
AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, David Carson, www.parade.condenast.com
The troubling trend of increasing militarization is made more so by how political leadership has displaced responsibility for such violence. In Ferguson, as in Gaza, official US demands for peace ignore the fact that the supply of military weaponry negates such a call to action. This irony has not been lost on residents in Missouri and abroad. One Palestinian tweeter, displaying an empty tear gas canister reading “Made in USA,” offered satirical assurance to the citizens of Ferguson, saying that there should be no worry because the tear gas they faced had been tested on Palestinian civilians. If, as Missouri Congressional Representative Emanuel Cleaver rightly states in The Guardian, that it is “unconscionable that we would convert a city in the middle of America into a war zone,” it is equally unconscionable that we would provide Israel with the means to do so in Gaza.
This drawing of connections between Ferguson and Gaza also offers important critiques of power, space, and the politics of occupation. In Ferguson, a town where seventy percent of residents are black, yet the power structure is predominantly white, protestors have readily evoked the language of an “occupied territory,” reminding those watching that their citizenship has always been second-class. The language of occupation signifies an appraisal made long ago by Marcus Garvey, the Black Panthers, and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, among other civil rights organizations, who have used such a concept to critique the relationship of US power to communities of color nationwide. As residents of Ferguson chant “Gaza strip” at local police forces, they also connect to present-day struggles for liberation worldwide; they seek not only justice, but also self-determination.
Representing police activity in Ferguson as a colonial occupation brings to bear the connections between occupied spaces such as Gaza and low-income communities of color in the United States, where residents have been physically barricaded from resources, denied access to education, redlined from housing opportunities, stripped of citizenship, and segregated in apartheid-like conditions. The kind of outrage growing in Ferguson, Palestine, and other colonized spaces responds not only to the immediate events that have triggered action, but to decades upon decades of repressive occupation and the denial of social and political enfranchisement.