LULAC Calls for Congressional Review of Department of Defense Program Which Gifts Military-Grade Weapons and Equipment to Local Law Enforcement

August 19, 2014

Contact: Jossie Flor Sapunar

The Civil Rights Group Underscores the Implications of the Precedent Set by Facilitating the Militarization of Local Law Enforcement, Especially in Ferguson

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The nation's oldest and largest Latino civil rights organization LULAC urges Congress to review its 1033 program, which enables local law enforcement to acquire military-grade weapons and equipment from the U.S. Department of Defense and to prioritize the preservation and conservation of American civil liberties. The request for congressional review comes in light of inflammatory details surrounding Michael Brown’s death which have reignited protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

“Police officers are using the same tactics and equipment that are used in overseas terrorist combat on Ferguson protesters,” stated LULAC National Executive Director Brent Wilkes. “Local law enforcement can pick, and consequently receive, military-issue equipment out of a mail-order catalog. Is local law enforcement equating minority communities with overseas terrorists when dispatching snipers and tanks into American neighborhoods?”

According to the Department of Defense, a total of 8,000 agencies at all levels of government participate in the 1033 program. Since its start in 1997, the program has transferred more than $4.3 billion in equipment to these agencies.

“We highly encourage Congress to reexamine the 1033 program to avoid the militarization of local law enforcement in our communities and to evaluate the precedent set when facilitating the militarization of the police,” continued Wilkes. “Police must respect our civil liberties, and that includes an American’s right to protest.”

News sources confirm that local law enforcement has put down protesters with military equipment. Protests and vigils continued amid recent autopsy results that showed the unarmed teenager was shot by police six times. The U.S. Attorney General's Office launched a federal civil rights probe of the death; Holder is slated to visit Ferguson tomorrow.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights volunteer-based organization that empowers Hispanic Americans and builds strong Latino communities. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with 1,000 councils around the United States and Puerto Rico, LULAC’s programs, services and advocacy address the most important issues for Latinos, meeting critical needs of today and the future. For more information, visit www.LULAC.org.

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