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SDS speaks out against police militarization

By Michela Martinazzi |
November 11, 2014
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SDS workshop on militarization of police
SDS workshop on militarization of police (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Gainesville, FL - On Nov. 5, Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Florida (UF SDS) conducted a workshop on history and growing militarization of police in the U.S., titled “The War at Home.” 25 students participated in the workshop. The University of Florida is where graduate student Kofi Adu-Brempong was shot by campus police with an assault rifle on March 2, 2010. Adu-Brempong, from Ghana in Africa, was in his apartment when police broke down the door and Officer Keith Smith shot him in the face. The university eventually fired Lt. Stacey Ettel who was in charge at the scene.

Tristan Worthington, a lead organizer with SDS, opened the workshop saying, “We are facing an increase of police militarization on campuses across the U.S., including UF.”

Jonathan Waring, an SDSer, explained, “The militarization of the police on campus was fueled by the Department of Defense Excess Property Program (DoD 1033). The 1033 Program allows the Department of Defense to give away military-grade weapons, new or used in combat, to police departments. The only fees the police departments pay are for shipping or upkeep. This is now an issue because small sleepy towns such as Gainesville, Florida have armored cars and assault rifles at the ready.” Waring underlined the problem saying, “Police officers in most of the country require less training hours than barbers need to get a license, and yet we trust them to protect us.”

Eric Brown, with both SDS and Students for Justice in Palestine, covered the militarization of police forces beginning in the 1960s with the creation of SWAT teams. Brown told his fellow students, “It’s not a surprise that the first SWAT raid in this country was on the Black Panther Headquarters in Los Angeles.” He also commented on the current context for heavily-armed police forces, “The U.S. sold $220 billion worth of arms between 2004 and 2011. The U.S. is the leading arms exporter in the world and has connections to most military conflicts in the world.”

SDS is continuing their campaign to end police militarization on their campus by demanding that the University of Florida opt out of the 1033 Program and stop receiving military grade weapons. There will be another student event on Dec 3.