Robert Sarvis: Ferguson crisis highlights race disparities, militarization of law enforcement

robert sarvisIn response to the ongoing crisis in Ferguson, Mo., Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate of Virginia, Robert Sarvis, released the following statement:

“In Ferguson, a young, unarmed black man was shot and killed by the police, something that happens too often in America. Then, in response to demonstrations protesting the shooting, the police deployed in military gear, fired tear gas at protesters (including some standing on their own private property), and arrested members of the press.

“Something has gone seriously awry in the relationship between our government and private citizens. When the police become injurious of people’s individual rights and civil liberties, we must all rise up in protest. People should be able to see law enforcement as part of their community, not as an occupying force.

“What’s happening in Ferguson could happen here in Virginia. In fact, we’ve already experienced police militarization gone awry, like the unnecessary SWAT raid in Fairfax that ended Sal Culosi’s life for small-time gambling on football games.”

“If elected, I would support legislation to curtail federal subsidies to militarize local police departments. Unfortunately, most Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. House voted down one such effort earlier this summer, highlighting the need for new voices in Congress.

“I would also work to end the Drug War that breaks up families, packs our prisons with nonviolent offenders, and perpetuates racial inequality. Police militarization is a devastating consequence of our failed War on Drugs, as is the distrust between police and young black men that leads to unnecessary, tragic deaths.

“The United States should lead the world by example, but the images coming out of Ferguson send the wrong message.

“I talked about these issues in my campaign for governor last year, and I’m the only candidate talking about them in this election as well. We can’t afford to elect politicians who remain silent on civil liberties.”

During his gubernatorial campaign in 2013, Sarvis held a press conference in Charlottesville after a young woman was assaulted there by Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control officers for buying sparkling water. Sarvis explicitly stated it was time to address the general trend toward militarization of police tactics.