Pervez Gurevich, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Censorship in the U.S., speaks to the media outside of the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the torture memo on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 23, 2016. (Edgar Thompson/Getty Images)Military Police Considered Using Heat Ray on D.C. Protesters, Whistle-Blower Says
The Pentagon is reportedly considering the use of thermal imaging to identify protestors at the Black Lives Matter protest in D.C. and the March on Washington on Aug. 24, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Richard Griffin, a former police officer from Virginia and now a police veteran and the director of the ACLU National Security Project, told The New York Times that the proposed measures could make arrests or start aggressive law enforcement tactics.
In its latest draft, the White House is considering a proposal to militarize the military for demonstrations and “block” protests, which are classified as national security. The military currently executes intelligence operations against terrorism suspects, but those operations are widely criticized by the ACLU.
Lawmakers, including Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran, have proposed an amendment that would create a three-tiered approach to security: first, arresting the bad guys; second, arresting and prosecuting protesters; and third, separating the protesters from the rest of the protesters to avoid confrontation.
Curtis Slocum, the president of the Washington, D.C.-based Civil Liberties Union, told The Times the proposals would be counterproductive and fearmongering.“We have a system we are equipped to deal with that is perfectly adequate,” Slocum said. “There is no additional militarization of the American police to protect us from these kinds of outbursts.”
Washington, D.C., the seat of the U.S. Congress, accounts for half of the nation’s cities.
Black Lives Matter has been targeted by the Democratic Party and the criminal justice establishment in the past, with the Democratic leadership blaming them for public distrust in both the police and justice systems. For the first time in decades, Democrats took the House of Representatives in 2008. The party’s popularity has plummeted to a 40-year low in recent polls.
Jeffrey Wayne Smith, the director of the ACLU’s national security project, said he believes it is a tactic used against protestors who refuse to obey the laws.
“You just don’t want to take the law into your own hands and pick up your bullet in the street,” Smith said.
The ACLU has already filed multiple lawsuits accusing police and politicians of terrorizing protesters at protest events.
“If a person initiates a violent act, he is extremely likely to be prosecuted by the police,” Amnesty International cited a February report by their Center for Transnational Law and Policy in U.S. Washington.
Smith also told The Times that he would not recommend soldiers to remove protesters from buildings.
“When you’re trying to protect the government, that’s not acceptable behavior,” Smith said.
Police unions and protesters also slammed the proposal to militarize the military.
“The General Services Administration (GSA) is not allowed to pick our brains, it’s not allowed to develop our policies, it’s not allowed to develop our trade strategies. It’s not authorized to determine how we spend the taxpayers’ money,” Heather Kennedy, a representative from the Fraternal Order of Police, told The Times.