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Today is Ash Wednesday. It’s a day Christians observe as the first of the 40 days of the Lenten season, which culminates with Easter. Lent is a period where Christians are expected to sacrifice something (usually something like soft drinks or a favorite food), as a daily reminder of the sacrifice Christ made, as we remember His 40 days and nights in the wilderness, preparing for his ministry. For most of the country/world (even Christians), Ash Wednesday is a blip on the Christian calendar. But if you’re gonna spend 40 days making sacrifices and reflecting on your faith, this is reason enough to throw the Mother of All Parties, just prior to putting on the metaphorical sackcloth and ashes. Which explains the appeal of Mardi Gras. What it doesn’t explain is why Mardi Gras celebrations are increasingly overrun with cop commandos that look more “Army” than they do “Andy” (Griffith).

Mardi Gras (literally “Fat Tuesday” in French) began as a celebration in Mobile, Alabama back in the 1700s. It spread across the Gulf Coast, and really got revved up in places like “the city that care forgot,” a.k.a. New Orleans. Since then, it’s spread all across Louisiana, which has largely taken over the whole Mardi Gras thang and run with it, to the point where Mardi Gras and Louisiana are forever welded together in the minds of most. If you’ve never been to a Mardi Gras celebration, you owe it to yourself to see it, up close and personal, at least once in your lifetime. Think of it as the sort of semi-hedonistic equivalent of a Muslim’s trip to Mecca for the Hadj.

Mardi Gras celebrations usually center around two kinds of events – parades and balls. The balls are usually formal or semi-formal affairs thrown by Krewes – social clubs that also stage the parades. The parades are huge, public affairs, filled with marching bands, mounted riders, entertainers, and floats, from which riders toss colorful plastic beads, plastic cups, toys, candy and other (basically worthless) crap to eager parade goers. You’ll hear the phrase “Throw me somethin’ mister!” repeated more often than a Rosary at such affairs.

You’ll also witness (at the rowdier parades at least) a certain number of young, carefree, uninhibited women who are willing to exchange a quick flash of their mammaries in exchange for some cheap plastic swag. (If the real Mardi Gras was like the movies, all the women flashing their ta-tas would look like Megan Fox and Jennifer Aniston. The reality, sadly, is most of them look more like Rosie O’Donnell and Roseanne Barr. I’ll let you savor that visual for a second, whilst you look around for some Visine for your mind’s eye.)

Now, throw a lot of people together, many of them buzzed on beer or other adult beverages of their choice, mix in a party atmosphere, along with the promise of getting something for nothing (beads and bling) and season with a small faction of the criminal element, looking to prey upon said parade-goers, and you have a recipe in need of some police presence. And at most Mardi Gras parades, you’ll find the local constabulary out in force.

In my salad days, “out in force” usually referred to cops on bikes, on horseback, or on foot, in addition to those in squad cars actually IN the parades. The theory goes that a visible police presence is usually enough to keep the partiers from becoming an angry mob, bent on destruction, as well as the usual suspects – pickpockets, muggers, thugs, and other criminal types back in the shadows, where they belong.

That was then. This is now. Today, thanks to all that 9/11 money flowing from the Federal piggy bank, local police look a lot more like a detachment of Force Recon than they do the boys in blue. I haven’t seen that much Tacti-Cool gear since the NRA Convention. Seriously. Do police really need to wear digi-camo uniforms, flak vests, Kevlar helmets, and carry an assortment of weapons across their bodies to patrol a friggin’ parade? Hell, one parish over from me, the Sheriff ended up buying an armored-up urban assault vehicle (mini-tank) with his 9/11 swag. And keep in mind, these modern-day urban warriors don’t travel solo. It’s a regular Barney Fife and Drum corp, with a half-dozen of them or so, moving in formation. Now THAT’S projecting force.

My question is, why? The Posse Comitatus statutes (recently “updated” by the Obama administration, by the way) specifically prohibits prohibited our Armed Forces from operating as a police force within the confines of the United States, sans a declaration of Martial Law, or if we are defending ourselves from invading forces. And there’s a damn good reasons for that. The Founding Fathers originally torpedoed the entire idea of having a standing army around, feeling that it would be far too great a temptation for those in charge to avoid using it as a way to run things as they see fit. Who needs a Constitution, when you’ve got a bunch of guys in Kevlar with big, black guns running around?

So the Founders specifically said “NO” to allowing the armed forces from operating within the country. That’s why we have police forces and state troopers, so that our law enforcement is responsible directly to local municipalities and state governments. It’s also why the 2nd Amendment was written into the Constitution. The ONLY thing that would/will stop any government from stepping over the line from enforcing the law to using force against law-abiding citizens is the prospect of those law-abiding citizens shooting back.

But just as the Founding Fathers likely never anticipated the development of a handgun that could fire off a half-dozen or more rounds in under 30 seconds, neither did they anticipate that our governments would find away around the “no military presence inside our borders to be used against our citizens” rule. In this post-9/11 world, we no longer need to worry about the Army marching down our street. Why concern ourselves with that, when the cops carry the same gear that the Army does, and is authorized to use that deadly force against us, any old time they feel the need?

Of course, if that’s not getting the hairs on the back of your neck to stand at attention, note that the Obama Administration has authorized the training and garrisoning of Army units, specifically within the United States, tasked with putting down civil unrest, should we experience another terrorist incident (sorry…“man-caused disasters”) or domestic unrest due to skyrocketing food prices, gas prices, or the inmates at your friendly, neighborhood OWS encampment going rogue.

Yep. Walt Kelly was right. We have met the enemy, and he is us. But never did we foresee that it would be our very own police and military that would be the ones gearing up for some righteous slap-downs against us. So the next time you see the words “POLICE” emblazoned across the chest of some guy that looks like he’s read to be shipped off to Somalia or some other world hotspot, remember that it’s far easier to keep the dogs of war at bay, when they’re not barking in your own backyard.

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  1. Preach it, brother. I think it is appropriate for cops to wear ballistic vests and the like, but they ought to look like cops, not troops.

    Cops are supposed to serve the court by executing warrants and making arrests. They are the enforcement arm of the rule of law.

    Soldiers kill people and break things.

    Dress like a soldier, you start thinking like a soldier, then you start acting like a soldier.

    • And the police shouldn’t be surprised if the public starts thinking of them as part of an invasive army of occupation. I think the police need to seriously re-think this whole tactical – SWAT attitude, because they are in danger of losing the support of the general public. Minority communities in large cites already think of the police as the enemy – what will happen when the general public starts thinking the same way? I am glad I live in a small-town, rural county where the local police and sheriff’s deputies still see themselves as part of that community.

      I know that it’s a problem in big cities with a larger number of criminals and a “don’t get involved” public. We already see big-city police departments with “community outreach ” programs that are desperately trying to get people to help the police, at least to the point where they will come forward as witnesses. One incident with the “Cool Tactical Outfit Platoon” approach will easily counter a year’s worth of community outreach attempts in the schools. It will be tough to convince the public that the police are their friends if the public only sees the police in face masks, helmets, and APCs.

  2. The partying is on Shrove Tuesday, not Ash Wednesday. By Wednesday, you’re supposed to already be serious.

  3. The militarization of police is a troubling problem since they are pretty quick to storm a house at 4 AM for unpaid parking tickets. People get hurt and sometimes the police take a round or two from a homeowner who rightfully thinks he’s being rolled instead of served papers.
    I don’t buy the idea that a 4 am raid is safer than a 8 am knock on the door. Forget that element of surprise nonsense, if someone was intent on taking on the cops they would be nocturnal or have alarm systems to warn them (think noisy dogs) and not let their guard down.

  4. The number forty is interesting:

    Christ spent 40 days in the wilderness.
    The Jews spent 40 years in the desert before entering the promised land.
    Moses, I believe, spent 40 days on Mount Sinai.

    • Actually If i’m not mistaken the number “40” does not always refer to a specific number when used in Jewish and Christian texts. Judaisim is very symbolic when it comes to numbers. 7, 13 40 etc. The number fourty usually pertains to a great amount of something or some peroid of time that was highly significant. Quoted
      “The number 40 is significant in Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and other Middle Eastern traditions. It can represent an estimate, or many of something”

      • That is my understanding also, “forty” was used in the same way we use “zillion” today, it just meant a LARGE number.

  5. It’s good to know that the same wonderful guys who brought y’all the Danziger Bridge executions are stomping around Nawlins in their combat boots at Mardi Gras time.

    Rest easy, Big Sleazy. Just stay away from bridges. And highway overpasses. And storm troopers.

    • Your proscriptions leave very little ground to enjoy in America’s favorite underwater city. (“But it’s not underwater!” “Yeah? Just wait a bit.”) Those who love the city and its ways must have been charmed when, in fear of their own denizens, two-thirds of the NOPD fled the town during Katrina, only to be spelled by a bunch of helmeted BlackWater/XE goons carrying M4’s, deputized, one assumes, by some official who had his finger on the pulse of the population. That a jackboot on the neck of Liberty came next was little surprise. What a credit to SCOTUS that they granted cert and upheld the Constitution as to the gun confiscation fiasco. What to make of the fact that half the young men in New Orleans, upon seeing the Imperial Storm Troopers attending Mardi Gras, likely concluded “hey, that’s some cool kit! Can I buy that stuff?” We’re all Operators now? They’ve been leading by example, and it’s working.

    • Ralph, it does my heart good to hear you decry the Danziger Bridge crimes, some of the worst racist (I know, it’s hard to prove intent) police crimes in the last decade. I thought only us lefties even heard about that. It was not widely reported by Fox News.

      Louisiana law enforcement has shown itself unfit to carry a necklace of plastic beads, much less a deadly weapon.

  6. Wearing all that gear at a parade is probably not needed. Do what the Korean National Police do and keep the “riot police” on a bus near by ready to be used and keep Barney Fife on the street.

    But Here we go, and hopefully I don’t start a $hit storm here, but unfortunately our police have to be armed to this point due to our criminals are just as well armed.


    • “…our criminals are just as well armed.”

      Huh? Since when did the average mugger start carrying shotguns, handguns, full auto SBRs, tear gas, flash bangs, backup, air support, and have the law on their side?
      Not to mention “qualified immunity” aka. carte blanche to shoot mothers in the back, send rounds flying through a closed bedroom door, light occupied compounds on fire, and basically murder anyone who makes them ‘feel’ threatened.

    • That is the problem. Criminals are NOT just as well armed. People think that just because the two criminals in the North Hollywood shootout carried and used assault rifles and wore body armor that ALL criminals mysteriously upgraded.

      The militarization of our police agencies has been perpetuated in the post 9/11 scare era, which in turn, justifies the enourmous growth in government and expenditure of more money for the military-security industrial complex.

  7. Thank god that none of the police I saw out in Mobile over the past weekend looked anything like that. They looked more like your “salad days” description.

    • In Shreveport, it looked more as if they were holding auditions for a revival of the S.W.A.T. TV show.

      Interestingly, a year or so ago, the police were chasing a suspect through the parade crowd, when one of the SPD officers realized she’d lost her service pistol (a Glock, if I recall). It apparently fell out of her holster while she was running.

      The gun was never recovered.

      • Guess her retention holster needed some tweaks. At least that’s a better excuse than the guy who left his AR on the lid of his patrol car’s trunk and drove away. Somewhere in Washington state, if I recall. Another favorite place to lose your duty weapon is in the bathroom of a courthouse. Funny how many police officers forget their pistol in those circumstances.

  8. from a technical standpoint, I’m pretty sure police are supposed to be reserve armed forces in an invasion or something like that. i may be wrong about that. however this doesn’t justify their domestic use of this equipment for many situations.

  9. Brad:

    While I agree with you on this, I have to point out a serious factual error in your article. The US Constitution does not prohibit the use of the armed forces from engaging in domestic law enforcement activities. The only restriction on the operations of US military forces is found in the mostly forgotten Third Amendment which prohibits the quartering of troops in private homes in peacetime.

    The restriction on the use of military forces for domestic law enforcement is found in the post-Reconstruction Posse Comitatus statute and its successors. The Posse Comitatus statutes only apply to the US Army and the Air Force by derivation. The law does not apply to the Department of the Navy. However, the law’s restrictions have been applied to the Navy and Marine Corps by DoD policy.

  10. What makes you guys think any of this is new? I lved in Noo Awlins from ’74 to ’80, and believe me, a lot of locals stay home because of the riot police int he French Quarter. They used to carry “batons” that were the size and diameter of a short baseball bat, and believe you me, they enjoyed employing them against the drunks who got out of hand. Long before Katrina, the NOPD had a reputation as one of the most corrupt police departments in the nation, and the KAtrina offenders were not the first who were Angola Bound for various drug dealing, murders, and thefts. Beating drunks was a favorite sports activity–and I rather think it continues to be. I remember hotels along Bourbon street being raided for the slightest flash of boobies from a balcony.
    The best Mardi Gras of all time when I lived there was in ’79 when the police were on strike. Instead of 3 million people downtown, there were only 300,000 happy revelers guarded by the National Guard carrying empty M-16s.

  11. Obviously no one has policed a crowd of a near million drunken aholes who think Mardi Gras is an excuse to do whatever they want to whomever they want. Try it sometime, you might suit-up too.

    • Right. Cause all one million drunken aholes would rape, assault and possibly shoot innocent bystanders if the cops weren’t there. We know the real story: it’s us and them. Right?

      And cops need an AR and body armor to protect themselves from drunken partiers armed with, uh, ARs. And stuff. Besides, the po-po need to look spec ops bad-ass in case someone (probably alcohol-impaired) doesn’t know the definition of instant obedience to authority. Not that a military get-up would, I dunno, inflame anti-social a’holes.

    • Have you been to Mardi Gras? I spent 5 days in nola in 2010 for it, the worst thing you saw there were fat girl titties, ultra-right Christian protestors, and a bunch of cops working unnecessary overtime. I didnt see any drunken assholes, and if there were any, I would imagine bar security would have dealt with them rather than wait 30 mins for the welfare queens… err, cops to show up. Isnt it funny how bouncers are paid far less, are not equipped at all, and have virtually no legal immunity, yet do the same thing every day.

  12. While I understand where you are coming from Brad, the gear isn’t the problem, I can understand officers wanting to be prepared for hostile actions. How can I say that I want all that awesome gear, but the police can’t be allowed to use it.

    No the problem isn’t the cop gear, it’s the cop attitude. I respect police officers who respect me, but we have to hold them to a higher standard because they have authority, But right now, we aren’t.

    • “How can I say that I want all that awesome gear, but the police can’t be allowed to use it.”

      Because citizens are required to follow the law and be punished if they break it – cops aren’t.

  13. “But never did we foresee that it would be our very own police and military that would be the ones gearing up for some righteous slap-downs against us.”

    Actually, many of us foresaw it. The problem is too many shared the habit of worshiping the military and police (which I see often even on this site), which is exactly why they’ve reached the status of never facing any consequences of their actions and always having an eternally increasing budget.

  14. “Mardis” Gras? “Hornaday?” Either you guys are too caught up in spiritual pursuits to run a spell check, or its something else. Just pulling your legs. 🙂 LOL!

  15. There’s no reason that their faces and names can’t be visible. I doubt there’s much accountability otherwise, only cause for concern. I’d probably file a complaint with the police department if I had seen it first hand. It looks like they are getting ready to take down bank robbers.

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