Music: Dark Hollow Blues from “Stone River Banjo Anthology” by Eric Thor Karlstrom
Excerpt From Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces by Rodney Balco:
From Chapter 7: The 1990’s- It’s All About The Numbers
The Ruby Ridge fiasco began in 1989 when Randy Weaver sold an ATF informant two sawed-off shotguns that had been cut shorter than was allowed under federal law. Weaver was no doubt an odd duck. He and his wife Vicki had moved their family to rural Idaho in 1983 to escape what they believed to be the coming Armageddon. He associated with white supremacists and in fact met the ATF informant at a meeting of the Aryan Nations. The informant’s handler at the ATF didn’t think Weaver was much of a threat, so rather than charge Weaver, the ATF attempted to leverage the gun charges to get him to work as an informant. When Weaver refused, the agent filed federal gun charges.
On August 21, 1992, a team of US marshals dressed in camouflage and carrying M-16s went to Weaver’s home on a reconnaissance mission to determine an appropriate place and manner to capture him. Once there, one of the marshals threw rocks at the Weaver cabin to see how the family’s dogs would react. The dogs went nuts. Hearing them, Weaver’s fourteen-year-old son Sammy went out with family friend Kevin Harris to see what the commotion was about. Accounts of the incident differ here, but at some point one of the agents shot and killed one of Weaver’s dogs. Sammy Weaver responded by firing his own gut at the source of the gunfire, then fled toward the house. One of the marshals then shot him in the back as he ran. Sammy Weaver was dead. Harris then exchanged fire with the marshals, killing one of them.
A twelve-day siege ensued, featuring hundreds of cops, agents, and troops from the ATF, the FBI, the US Marshals, the Idaho State Police, the local sheriff’s department, the Idaho National Guard, and- for some reason- the US Border Patrol. On day two of the siege, FBI sniper teams were told that their rules of engagement were, basically, to shoot on sight, instructions usually reserved for the battlefield and virtually unheard of in civil law enforcement. When Randy Weaver left the house to visit the body of his son, which tey had put in a guest cabin, an FBI shot him in te chest. As Weaver, Harris, and one of the Weaver’s daughters fled back into the house, the agent fired again at the front door. That bullet went through the door, then through Vicki Weaver’s head, killing her instantly. She was holding her ten-month-old daughter at the time. The bby fell to the floor. Weaver and Harris were eventually tried in federal court for murder, attempted murder, and other felonies. They were acquitted on all the serious chares. The federal government eventually settled with the Weaver family for over $3 million, and with Weaver for $380,000.
The raid in Waco the next year involved many of the same agencies- indeed, many of the same agents. The ATF was investigating the Branch Dividians and their leader, David Koresch, for weapons violations. Koresh went jogging every day and could conceivably have been picked peacefully. Instead, the agency drew up plans for a heavily armed raid on the Branch Dividians compound, even knowing that there were women and children inside. In fact, ATF officials learned ahead of time from an agent what infiltrated the compound that Koresch and his followers knew the raid was coming. Their plan depended on the element of surprise. They went through with it anyway.
From Chapter 8: The 2000s- A Whole New War:
After the December 2012 shooting massacre in Newtown, Connecticut put the issue of gun control back into the political discourse, some progressives again dredged up the right’s criticism of the ATF in the early 1990s. In one lengthy segment, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow aired old footage from Waco and Ruby Ridge while making some tenuous connections between gun rights politicians and activists and Weaver, McVeigh, and Koresch. She referred to a “conspiracy -driven corner of the gun world’s parania about federal agents,” without paying much heed to the fact that the ATF was inflicting the same sort of abuse on suspected gun offenders that Maddow herself has decried when used against suspected undocumented immigrants or Occupy protesters. More tellingly, Maddow added that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to give more power to the ATF based only on the politics of the people opposed to doing so. “Sometimes the character of the opposition defines why something ought to be the most politically viable thing in the world,” she said.
But even before Newtown, progressives have been advocating for the use of more government force against political factions they find unsavory. In 2009 the Department of Homeland Security issued a controversial report on what the author- DHS analyst Daryl Johnson- called a resurgence of right-wing extremism and the threat it posed to domestic security.
Johnson was interviewed for an article one the twentieth anniversary of the Ruby Ridge fiasco, and he took one step further Rachel Maddow’s idea of supporting government force simply because you don’t like the factions opposing it. Johnson in fact suggested that merely having concerns about police militarization is a worry only borne by extremists. In fact, he appeared to have suggested that even recognizing that militarization is happening is an indication of fringe extremism.