By Kay Whatley, Editor
National and international organizations are responding with statements against the Executive Order released on August 28, 2017, by the current US administration. Revocation of EO 13688 lifted its ban on military equipment acquisition by local police departments.
Nonprofit and public statements released August 28 are included below. As additional groups speak out against removal of this ban on military equipment, their statements will be added below.
(Originally published August 28, 2017. Updated August 31, 2017, to add statement from Veterans For Peace)
ACLU Responds to Trump Administration Giving Police Departments Grenade Launchers, Bayonets, Other Military Equipment
By Alexandra Ringe, aclu.org
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that President Donald Trump will issue an executive order on August 28, 2017, allowing the federal government to give police departments certain military equipment—such as grenade launchers, high-caliber weapons, and armored vehicles—through the Department of Defense 1033 program and other federal programs. President Barack Obama had stopped the federal government from providing these weapons and vehicles to police through the 1033 program and others in a 2015 executive order.
Kanya Bennett, legislative counsel at the Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union, had this comment:
“We have an epidemic in the United States of police using excessive force, particularly against people of color, with injuries and deaths mounting. It defies logic to arm the police with weapons of war—grenade launchers, high-caliber assault weapons, and more—but that’s precisely what President Trump and Attorney General Sessions have decided to do.
“Three years ago this month, the nation witnessed a highly militarized, violent crackdown by police on protesters in Ferguson. Today’s executive order erases the sensible limits placed by the Obama administration after Ferguson on the kinds of military equipment flowing from the federal government to local police and into our neighborhoods. Tensions between law enforcement and communities remain high, yet the president and the attorney general are giving the police military-grade weaponry instead of practical, effective ways to protect and serve everyone.”
For War Comes Home, the ACLU’s report on the militarization of the police, see www.aclu.org/report/war-comes-home-excessive-militarization-american-police.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America’s original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. See more at ACLU.org.
Amnesty International USA: Military Weapons to Local Law Enforcement a Grave Mistake
By Mandy Simon, aiusa.org
Following August 28, 2017 remarks from Attorney General Jeff Sessions stating President Trump’s intention to reverse an executive order by President Obama limiting military weapons to local law enforcement, Justin Mazzola, Amnesty International USA researcher, issued the following statement:
“Today’s executive order is a grave mistake and could easily lead to a repeat of human rights violations that we’ve seen in the past. Police officers should be equipped to protect public safety and defuse conflict, but this policy would instead outfit them for a battlefield and escalate tensions.
“In Ferguson, Amnesty International witnessed a local police force, armed to the teeth with military-grade weapons facing a crowd of protestors, including elderly people and young children. We cannot allow that to happen again. President Trump must reconsider this order immediately.”
In a 2015 report, “On the Streets of America: Human Rights Abuses in Ferguson,” covering the police response to protestors in Ferguson, MO, Amnesty International spoke directly to the issue of military-grade weapons in the hands of local law enforcement and their effect on peaceful protest.
Amnesty International-USA: “We are people from across the world standing up for humanity and human rights. Our purpose is to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. We investigate and expose abuses, educate and mobilize the public, and help transform societies to create a safer, more just world.” See more at Amnesty International – USA.
Veteran Organization Condemns Administration Announcement to Further Militarize the Police
By Colleen Kelly, veteransforpeace.org
On Monday, August 28, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration will lift limits on the 1033 program to once again allow local police departments access to surplus military equipment such as grenade launchers, high caliber weapons, tracked vehicles that look like tanks and bayonets.
Veterans For Peace condemns the Trump administration’s choice to allow more combat equipment to be transferred from the Pentagon to domestic police forces. As veterans who have used military equipment to train for war and in combat, we know that there is a tremendous difference between the tools used by warriors in combat and the equipment we want to see as citizens on our streets and in our neighborhoods used by those who interact with us and are charged to serve us. We call for the immediate suspension of the 1033 program and for all equipment meant specifically for war like MRAPs, tracked vehicles, grenade launchers and high caliber weapons – 50 caliber and above, to be immediately returned to the Pentagon. The militarization of the police has aggravated an already deep division between police and citizens in many communities across the nation. It has contributed to many police departments taking on an us vs. them mentality, leaving some communities to feel like the police are an occupying force. Police forces have used this kind of equipment to intimidate citizens exercising their constitutional rights to freedom of speech, to assemble and to petition the government for redress.
Trump’s July 28th “Please don’t be too nice,” statement when addressing law enforcement on Long Island NY was a comparatively innocuous prelude to this new policy of releasing more equipment meant for war into our communities. His words appear to condone police brutality and now his directive to place combat weapons in the hands of police while reducing and in many places ending Justice Department efforts at accountability send a clear signal that police can act violently with impunity.
The Trump Doctrine is one of divide and conquer through hate. Trump’s words and policies are an extension of a deeply racists, xenophobic and fear based worldview.
To act this way in the wake of the tragedy in Charlottesville and the rise of hate in our nation makes it clear that the president has no intention of working to improve police and community relations nor in taking concrete steps to bring people together. In fact, he has thrown gas on a smoldering fire by embracing revisionist history, claiming that someone wants to take, “our history.” Who is “our”? He speaks as if the history of the U.S. belongs to one group and is not a collective story, as if all the people in the United States are not part of the triumphs, challenges and failures of this nation.
Trump’s words and actions call on us to act. We must all act to weave the social fabric of this nation into a tapestry where everyone is valued and can equally participate. The healing we need does not being with combat weapons. It begins with peace building at home and abroad, acceptance of each other, economic investment in people and environmental protection.
Veterans for Peace is a national organization founded in 1985. The organization includes men and women veterans of all eras and duty stations including from the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf and current Iraq wars as well as other conflicts. Our collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are often the innocent. Thus, other means of problem solving are necessary.