WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04) released the following statement after the Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit for the construction of a key section of the Dakota Access Pipeline, granting a major victory to protesters who have been demonstrating for months. Mr. Johnson sent Defense Secretary Ash Carter a letter Dec. 2 urging the Department of Defense (DOD) to demilitarize the North Dakota police, who have been confronting peaceful protesters using armored vehicles, automatic rifles, sound cannons, concussion grenades, and other offensive military weapons and equipment:
“While suspension of the permit is a victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and testament to our commitment to protecting the environment and clean drinking water for all Americans, I am still very concerned about the overly militarized response by law enforcement to the Water Protectors and that the president-elect’s business empire has direct links to the corporations behind the pipeline,” said Johnson.
Johnson’s letter to Carter requests that the DOD demand the return of more than $3 million in surplus military weapons from North Dakota law enforcement agencies that acquired the equipment through the Pentagon’s 1033 Program (also known as the Defense Department’s Excess Personal Property Program), which has transferred more than $5 billion in military hardware from the Department of Defense to local American law enforcement agencies since 1997.
As author of the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act, Rep. Johnson is a national leader in the demilitarization of state and local law enforcement.
“We must remain extra vigilant to protect American citizens’ right to peaceably assemble,” Johnson said in his letter signed by 13 House colleagues. “By removing military equipment from local and state enforcement responding to the DAPL protest, the DOD would reaffirm our government’s commitment to these founding ideals and help de-escalate an increasingly volatile situation.”