Advertisement

Police’s military-like response to riots in Ferguson draws criticism

TORONTO – Dramatic videos and images show men carrying automatic rifles while riding armoured cars through the streets of Ferguson, a small suburb of St. Louis, Missouri has many questioning the police response to protests over the shooting of an unarmed black teenager.

Ferguson has been rocked by four nights of protests after police shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown last Saturday, and some critics are pointing to the larger problem of police militarization.

In an interview with NBC’s Chris Hayes, Radley Balko author of Rise of the Warrior Cop, pointed to police resorting to increasing uses of force.

READ MORE: Obama calls for ‘peace and calm’ in wake of violent clashes in Ferguson, Mo.

“The militarization itself is part of a larger trend… That is a willingness or a policy among domestic police in the United States of using more force more often for increasingly, you know, petty offenses,” said Balko.

Story continues below advertisement

“It is a mentality that sees the people they are supposed to be serving not as citizens with rights but as potential threats,” he said.

For several days since the fatal shooting, protesters and police have engaged in a series of violent clashes. Vandalism and looting was reported following a peaceful vigil Sunday, and a store was set on fire.

WATCH: SWAT Team fires tear at TV crew covering protests in Ferguson, Mo.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson has defended the action taken by officers saying tactical units were sent in to respond to protesters throwing rocks, Molotov cocktails, and reports of gun fire.

Reporters covering the events in Ferguson have also become caught in the crossfire between police and protesters.

Wednesday night local news channel KSDK captured video of a SWAT team firing tear gas at an Al Jazeera America TV crew attempting to film the ongoing protests, drawing a sharp response from the news organization.

Story continues below advertisement

“Al Jazeera America is stunned by this egregious assault on freedom of the press that was clearly intended to have a chilling effect on our ability to cover this important story,” said Kate O’Brian, president of Al Jazeera America.

READ MORE: Calls for calm continue in U.S. town where unarmed black teen killed by police

The incident follows the arrests of journalists Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post who were arrested at a McDonald’s after failing to vacate the building quickly enough.

Huffington Post Washington Bureau Chief Ryan Grim condemned what he called “militant aggression” by police.

Story continues below advertisement

“Compared to some others who have come into contact with the police department, they came out relatively unscathed, but that in no way excuses the false arrest or the militant aggression toward these journalists,” Grim said in a statement released Thursday.

WATCH: Police use tear gas, smoke bombs on protesters in Ferguson

On Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama asked for “peace and calm” in the wake of the violent clashes.

“Let’s remember that we’re all part of one American family, we are united in common values and that includes the belief in equality under the law, respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protests,” Obama said during a press conference from the Massachusetts island where he’s on a two-week vacation.

Obama said there was no excuse for excessive force following the shooting of Michael Brown and has asked the FBI to investigate the incident.

Story continues below advertisement

Below are images of the ongoing protests in Ferguson:

Police in Missouri
Police take up position to control demonstrators who were protesting the killing of teenager Michael Brown on August 12, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images).
Demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images).
Demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images).
Demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images).
Demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images).
Demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images).
An Al Jazeera television crew, covering demonstrators protesting the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown, scramble for cover as police fire tear gas into their reporting position on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images).
An Al Jazeera television crew, covering demonstrators protesting the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown, scramble for cover as police fire tear gas into their reporting position on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images).
Police stand watch as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images).
Police stand watch as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images).
Story continues below advertisement
Police stand watch as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images).
Police stand watch as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images).
A police officer standing watch as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown conceals his/her identity on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images).
A police officer standing watch as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown conceals his/her identity on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images).
Police stand watch as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images).
Police stand watch as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images).
A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown looks at her phone as police keep watch nearby on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images).
A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown looks at her phone as police keep watch nearby on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images).
A protester takes shelter from smoke billowing around him Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, in Freguson, Mo.
A protester takes shelter from smoke billowing around him Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, in Freguson, Mo. AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/David Carson
Jeff Robertson/AP Photo.
Jeff Robertson/AP Photo.
Story continues below advertisement
Robert Cohen/Associated Press.
Robert Cohen/Associated Press.
Jeff Robertson/AP Photo.
Jeff Robertson/AP Photo.
Jeff Robertson/AP Photo.
Jeff Robertson/AP Photo.

With files from The Associated Press