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North Dakota is the first state to authorize armed police drones. Culture Editor Simon Moya-Smith says it's the continued militarization of police in the U.S.

Moya-Smith: North Dakota Authorizes Use of Armed Police Drones ... Really.

Simon Moya-Smith

I didn’t believe in werewolves until I saw one – blood dripping from its fangs, claws. Some sort of fabric draping from its maw, probably ripped from the body of its latest victim like flesh off bone. … It was then [or soon after] that I decided to be a political correspondent … because I knew at that moment that I’d never see one again, and the only thing that would come even close to the ugliness of a werewolf, to the fear and hate and pure fucking awfulness and alarm and death would be to cover politics in America.

On Friday, news came on the wire that authorities in North Dakota are right now arming drones to the teeth with pepper spray, tear gas, beanbags, rubber bullets and Tasers, which they’re referring to as “non-lethal weapons,” though each are as serious as a gun if you suffer from a heart condition or if one of the projectiles pops you in the chest like a 90-mph line drive. Boom. Thud. Lights out.

North Dakota is the first state to pass such a law, and, according to reports, seedy lobbyists with ties to law enforcement hijacked the bill from its sponsor and amended the thing to allow the arming of serious weaponry on police drones. The original goal of the legislation, says its sponsor, Republican State Representative Bill Becker, was simply to locate evidence. Becker’s bill, House Bill 1328, as he wrote it, prohibited arming the drones with anything other than a camera. “In my opinion there should be a nice, red line: Drones should not be weaponized. Period,” Becker said. Yet while he stomps and fumes over the theft of his bill, the fleecing lobbyists are somewhere celebrating with high-priced whiskey and posturing jubilantly over a doe carcass, shot dead with a drone.

Well I suppose it was only a matter of time before the kind of armed remote controlled flying things the military deploys during operations in Iraq were aimed at American civilians. Jeezus, folks, I can picture it now:

In the distance, above your skull, a weird buzzing sound grows nearer. You eye the sky, but can’t find the source of the whirring something. “What the hell is that?” you wonder. The buzzing continues. Interest turns to concern. More buzzing. Then … the thing reveals itself. In an instant it zooms over your house like the Cavalry over the hill, menacingly. You immediately notice it’s one of those Delta Drones. They look like a spider fucked a helicopter and spawned an army of unnatural mechanical arachnid with a taste for human tissue, a black widow with wings. A venomous beast. Latrodectus mactans. And instead of a red mark on its belly, a glistening badge. … Whoosh! It nosedives toward you and fires several beanbags, striking you twice in the torso. Suddenly you can’t breathe. Your heart beats irregularly. Cops swarm, but it’s too late. All goes dark. Sing the Death Song. See you on the other side.

And this isn’t an off-the-mark dramatization. In 1970, during the National Chicano Moratorium March, a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy killed Chicano journalist Ruben Salazar after he shot him in the head with a tear gas canister. And even though the coroner ruled the death a homicide, the deputy was never prosecuted for killing Salazar with the “non-lethal weapon.”

Since Salazar’s death 45 years ago in the streets of L.A., there have been a great number of curious cases of people dying from these so-called “non-lethal weapons” law enforcement use in every city in this country. So, no matter what kind of dribbling dissimulation and misleading language the authorities to the north will utter henceforth, rest assured that Tasers and beanbags and tear gas canisters and rubber pellets are anything but “non-lethal weapons.” … And now we can expect them percehd on drones, standing as a frightening example of the continued militarization of the police in the U.S. First, North Dakota. Then who? … Who’s next? Texas? Ferguson, Missouri? ... I felt safer around the werewolf.


I just watched that movie trailer with Adam Beach again – “The Suicide Squad,” and as I was bringing this vicious column to a close I heard The Joker speak: “Oh I’m not going to kill ya. I’m just going to hurt ya really, really bad.” This also appears to be the position of badged gun-toters in North Dakota. Watch your head, friends. Here they come. You’ve been warned. Get comfortable wearing Kevlar and helmets. Get used to electrical shocks. Time to go. I can feel the rumble of the armored military vehicle outside. And so will you, if you don’t feel it already.

Simon Moya-Smith, Oglala Lakota, is the Culture Editor at Indian Country Today Media Network. Follow him @simonmoyasmith.

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