The Missouri National Guard, deployed in Ferguson, Mo. to control an eruption of protests following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown Jr. last summer, referred to demonstrators as “enemy forces” and “adversaries,” according to documents obtained by CNN.
The “highly militarized” language, found in internal mission briefings, was used by troops as they prepared to enter Ferguson. To their chagrin, superiors of the Missouri National Guard later instructed troops to stop using the military terms to describe the residents.
The documents reveal that the Missouri guard was especially concerned that “adversaries” might use phone apps and police scanners to expose operational security,” CNN writes. “Counterintelligence operations are directed at supporting an information campaign. Their audience does not require the information to be accurate and is easily swayed,” one document read.
A document titled “Operation Show-Me Protection II,” which outlines the Missouri National Guard’s mission in Ferguson, listed players on the ground deemed “Friendly Forces” and “Enemy Forces.” Among groups characterized as hate groups were the KKK, the RgB Black Rebels and the New Black Panther Party, but also “General Protesters.”
But paired with the response of the troops and Ferguson police — who relied on heavy military gear, militarized equipment, and inflammatory actions to deal with crowds — the language seems to further demonize protesters, turning American citizens into “enemies,” St. Louis Alderman Antonio French told CNN. “It’s disturbing when you have what amounts to American soldiers viewing American citizens somehow as the enemy,” he said.
According to CNN, who obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request, two days after the deployment, Col. David Boyle, Army chief of staff at the Missouri National Guard, warned that the language could be potentially inflammatory. Eventually, “enemy forces” were changed to “criminal elements,” but not all agreed that the edit was necessary.
Still, National Guard Capt. John Quinn defended the militarized language as standard for the planning process ahead of deployment. In an email to CNN, he said the documents used in the Ferguson mission briefings were “a generic military planning format utilized in a wide range of military missions, so the term ‘enemy forces’ would be better understood as ‘potential threats.’ Often in Guard operations, threats would include inclement weather, heat, failing levees, etc.”
This isn’t the first time the National Guard has come under scrutiny for their actions in Ferguson. In November, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles criticized the Guard for their delayed deployment. Others believed the troops ignored looters who swarmed businesses in the area.
Quinn told CNN that it was not the responsibility of the National Guard to “confront those destroying businesses,” adding that the troops would have stood at guard sites while law enforcement apprehended looting suspects.
You can read more on the documents here.
SOURCE: CNN | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty