Speech given by Anti-War Committee member Rhea Smykalski @ the Injustice on a Stick Protest outside the MN State Fair on September 3, 2017.
First off, I want to thank the organizers for having me here today. It is so great to see so many people here to to protest the injustices in Minnesota.
This past week the Trump administration announced they will be lifting a ban that kept local police departments from obtaining military surplus gear. This ban was put into place in 2015 after the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, where local police used surplus military equipment to suppress massive protests. The lifting of this ban comes only weeks after the violence in Charlottesville and continued police abuse nationwide. It is an open effort to escalate racial tensions in our community and an attempt to silence protest with the threat of deadly force.
Since 1997, this surplus sharing agreement also known as the 1033 program, has given more than 5.4 billion dollars in military gear to state and local enforcement. This includes riot gear, bayonets, grenade launchers, armored vehicles, helicopters and planes, infrared laser scopes, high powered M14 and M16 rifles, sniper scopes, and ammunition.
We have seen the militarization of the police firsthand here in Minnesota.
- In 2008, during the RNC, police deployed tear gas, rubber bullets, stun grenades, drones, flash bangs and sound cannons. There were mass arrests in response to protestors exercising their First Amendment rights.
- Minneapolis and St Paul participate in the CVE (Countering Violent Extremism) program targeting the Somali community allegedly to “combat terrorism”.
- Since 1995 police in Minnesota have killed 151 people. Some of these individuals include Terrence Franklin, Jamar Clark, Marcus Golden, Philando Castille, and most recently Justine Damond.
- In June, we saw armoured police vehicles sitting outside the capitol during a protest against the anti-Muslim group ACT. Minnesota police forces have basically acted as security for racist and anti-Muslim groups which is essentially endorsing them while we have have strongly opposed them.
- In June, after the verdict in the Castille case, more armoured vehicles met the protesters that gathered at the capitol and a new patrol plane was observed. Once the freeway was occupied, the police came out wearing riot and military gear, gas masks, and wielding assault rifles and batons. They also practiced military exercises to push protesters back, and used L-RAD sound cannons against us. L-Rad’s were first used in Gaza where the Israeli Defense Force “field tested” the equipment against civilians.
Why is there military surplus in the first place? Because the US has been profiting off of war for a long time now, the US spends over 600 billion dollars annually on military funding.
From Bush to Obama to that orange cheeto face and his administration in the white house now, there has been a ramp up of police militarization. We need to stop funding militarization at home and abroad. Our communities and schools should not be treated as war zones! We’re here to stand together to oppose injustice and we believe the whole damn system is guilty as hell. THE WHOLE DAMN SYSTEM IS GUILTY AS HELL!