Congressman Lacy Clay, D-Missouri, says President Trump’s executive order to give local law enforcement some of the military’s extra weapons will create similar tensions that occurred after Michael Brown’s death – a deadly perception that officers are warriors instead of guardians of public safety. Brown, who was unarmed, was shot to death in 2014 by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
“As the tragedy in Ferguson unfolded, I personally witnessed local police in armored vehicles pointing military-style sniper rifles with night scopes at my constituents who were peacefully exercising their constitutional rights,” say Clay.
Trump’s order rolls back a President Obama-era restriction that Clay worked closely with the Obama administration to enact after the events in Ferguson. The president’s move will allow law enforcement agencies to have a surplus of things like grenade launchers, armored vehicles, bayonets and other military grade ammunition.
Clay, of St. Louis, says the weaponry is intended for use on the battlefield, not in neighborhoods.
“President Trump’s reckless decision to remilitarize local police is another shameful step backwards as he continues to deepen divisions across this country while appeasing hate, bigotry and intolerance,” says Clay.
The Trump administration says the decision will make it easier for law enforcement to protect themselves and their communities. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the order will send a strong message that “we will not allow criminal activity, violence and lawlessness to become the new normal.”
In December 2014, a grand jury announced it would not indict Wilson for shooting Brown. The decision sparked additional violence and protests in the community.