After completing this action, you will receive periodic updates on articles, events and activism opportunities from The Nation. You may unsubscribe at any time.
When residents of Ferguson, MO took to the streets to protest the killing of teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson, they were met with assault weapons, armored vehicles, tear gas and police decked out in full riot-gear. A community already dealing with the loss of one of their own found that their town had been occupied by what appeared to be a paramilitary force.
If the police looked ready to fight a war, it's because that's what their equipment was designed for. Much of it came curtesy of the Department of Defense's 1033 program, which sends "surplus military equipment" to police departments. Since 1033 was introduced in the late 1990s, the federal government has sent $4.3 billion worth of military hardware to local and state police forces. The program has a particularly brutal effect on communities of color, as it is used primarily to execute the disastrous and racist "war on drugs." While the images in Ferguson have just recently become familiar to many, police have long used SWAT teams outfitted in military gear to serve warrants for arrests for minor drug crimes, terrorizing whole families and sometimes injuring or even killing people in the process.
This needs to stop. This fall, Representative Hank Johnson is planning on introducing the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act, which would end the federal government's policy of sending billions of dollars of military equipment into our local communities.
Police should not treat the people they are sworn to protect like dangerous enemies. Write to your representatives and demand that they fight to end the militarization of the police.
Police wearing riot gear walk toward a man with his hands raised Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, in Ferguson, MO. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)