Reprint from The Huffington Post
The New York Police Department is developing a new anti-terrorism unit that will be deployed, in part, to contend with protestors.
The “Strategic Response Group,” a unit of approximately 350 officers, will handle “disorder control and counterterrorism protection capabilities, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced Thursday, according to CBS New York.
The NYPD plans for the SRF to be outfitted with “the extra heavy protective gear, with the long rifles and the machine guns that are unfortunately sometimes necessary in these instances,” Bratton said, according to the New York Post.
He also noted that the unit “is designed for dealing with events like our recent protests, or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris.”
New York’s “recent protests,” include demonstrations in response to a grand jury’s decision to not bring charges in the death of Eric Garner, who died after being placed in a chokehold by an NYPD officer. The same month, thousands of people marched through New York City to honor Garner and others who have lost their lives at the hands of police officers nationwide.
Civil rights activists were outraged by Bratton lumping in these kinds of demonstrations with terrorist attacks.
“Thousands have marched in a massive civil rights movement demanding police reform, and the NYPD has decided to respond to the community instead by arming the police with machine guns,” Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, said in a statement.
In a statement by Communities United for Police Reform, organizing director Priscilla Gonzalez said that Bratton’s plan for a “more militarized police force” is “the opposite of progress.”
The NYPD plans for the unit to be up and running by the summer.
The department did not immediately responded to a request for comment from The Huffington Post.