Urban Areas Security Initiative Fuels Police Militarization

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BORDC/DDF has joined War Resisters League and The American Friends Service Committee, and over thirty other civil liberties, religious, and peace and social justice groups to call on the House Appropriations Committee to maintain the President’s cut to Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) funding as a “step in the right direction.” UASI-supported programs have accelerated police militarization in communities across the country. By requiring training supported by UASI funds to contain a “nexus of terrorism” UASI not only fuels the dangerous culture of aggression so rampant in U.S. police departments, it also subjugates vital emergency response resources to militarized law enforcement

Lara Kiswani, executive director, Arab Resource and Organizing Center said.”If you want to fund emergency response, fund emergency response. We do not believe UASI is intended for that at all. Politicians are exploiting the climate of fear of Muslims and racism against Arabs in order to further programs like UASI so that they can use them to further exploit other communities of color. The war on terror has consistently been used to further the already-existing oppressive structures in the United States.”

The President has proposed a cut of $270 million to the Department of Homeland Security’s program that funds trainings and equipment grants in 29 high-density urban areas across the country.

“Time after time we’ve seen how programs like UASI feed on cultures of fear to further militarization around the country and the world. But we’ve also learned how being SWAT raided or teargassed by law enforcement, compels us to build movements across communities–working together to build a demilitarized world,” stated Tara Tabassi of the War Resisters League in New York City.

The groups urge the House Appropriations Committee to support programs for education, housing, job training, mental health and other resources that address the needs of our communities.

Aislinn Pulley of Black Lives Matter – Chicago noted that “In an environment where Chicago Public Schools may not have enough money to open in the fall, where the mayor closed half of the City’s mental health centers, conducted the largest mass public school closing in US history, and where the largest line item in the City’s operating budget goes to the police, the UASI budget is a slap in the face of all Chicagoans.”

Among the 34 groups signing onto the call to support the cut are: Iraq Veterans Against the War, Center for Constitutional Rights, Showing Up for Racial Justice, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, National Lawyers Guild, Xicana Moratorium Project, Berkeley Copwatch, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, BAYAN USA, Arab American Action Network, Black Lives Matter – Chicago, Black and Pink and Black Youth Project 100.

Sharlyn Grace, Executive Vice-President, National Lawyers Guild said, “Not only do communities of color, and particularly Black communities, bear the brunt of these weapons’ daily use through SWAT raids and other means, but military-grade equipment purportedly for use in counter-terrorism efforts is also regularly deployed against protesters, activists, and others exercising their First Amendment rights. Militarized police responses deter and repress vital speech seeking to hold government actors accountable.

Read the letter submitted to the House Appropriations Committee here.

This post was originally published by the War Resisters League.



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