In 1958, one of America’s most renowned painters, Norman Rockwell, created The Runaway, an oil on canvas that shows a nice policeman at a soda fountain counter lovingly giving what we’re sure are great words of advice to a scruffy white kid who is an obvious runaway because of that cute little stick and handkerchief contraption that all the cute little runaways always had.
Never mind that the reality of runaways is probably far more sinister and that not every community’s relationship with law enforcement is this innocent.
Well, Mad Magazine has an update. After the Trump administration announced that it would lift a ban on militarized gear for police, the satirical magazine replicated the famous photo with one a bit more … realistic.
This time it shows a black kid sitting at the same sweet soda fountain, obviously scared to death of a cop sitting next to him with an automatic weapon on his back and helmet over his face, the soda jerk giving a mean side eye.
The officer’s outfit is the same military gear that the officers of Ferguson, Mo., donned when they aggressed upon protesters after the death of Michael Brown, effectively turning our streets into a war zone, except the war was between American citizens and local law enforcement riding tanks and armed with semi-automatic weapons.
After Ferguson, President Barack Obama banned military equipment for local police, saying that the gear “can sometimes give people a feeling like [police are] an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them.”
However, on Monday, Donald Trump lifted Obama’s ban via his attorney general, Jeff Sessions.
USA Today reports that Sessions had been pushing for the program’s reinstatement and said that Obama caved to “superficial concerns” lobbed by civil rights groups. Sessions made his announcement in an address to the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest police union.
Included in the wonderful weapons our extremely well-trained police are now able to access are rocket launchers and bayonets. The Trump plan allegedly would repurpose the bayonets as utility knives. The launchers would supposedly shoot tear gas canisters instead of lethal ammunition.
Many spoke out against the reversal, including civil rights advocates and libertarians.
“Just a few summers ago, our nation watched as Ferguson raised the specter of increased police militarization. The law-enforcement response there and in too many places across the country demonstrated how perilous, especially for black and brown communities, a militarized police force can be,” said Janai Nelson, associate director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also weighed in.
“Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous—or false—security,” said Rand. “The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm.”
Read more at USA Today.