McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — U.S. Customs and Border Protection sent a contingency of its special elite force, plus two sniper teams and overhead surveillance equipment to add to security forces during the burial service of George Floyd on June 9 near Houston, according to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Shaw Drake, policy counsel of the ACLU of Texas Border Rights Center, told Border Report on Monday that at least six CBP snipers were positioned on rooftops and 66 paramilitary agents from the elite Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) were sent to aid law enforcement during the funeral service in Pearland, Texas, according to security documents provided to the ACLU.
The ACLU submitted Freedom of Information Act requests for the information to various Law enforcement agencies, and Drake called the documents surprising and disturbing.
“These documents show an over-militarized and excessive police presence, and a coordinated effort across federal, local and state agencies to deploy an inappropriate level of police response to the burial of a man killed by police brutality,” Drake said. “The bottom line is that CBP has no place in our communities and certainly no place at protests or events like George Floyd’s burial service.”
Floyd, 46, was killed on May 25 after he was pinned down by police in Minneapolis for over eight minutes. His death prompted protests against police brutality in several U.S. cities, and elevated the Black Lives Matter movement to a new level leading up to his June 9 burial.
According to a June 26 memo from Pearland police officials to the city manager, the city had been preparing for potential riots and unruly crowds during the burial service. And they employed the help of state, local and federal authorities, including the Bay Area Regional Bomb Squad, Pasadena Police Department SWAT, Houston Police Department, Brazoria County Sheriff’s Office, DPS, US Customs and Border Protection tactical team (BORTAC), the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives K-9 units, a Department of Homeland Security Intelligence analyst, and the Texas Army National Guard.
The plan included authorized use of gas munitions and BORTAC forces against the crowd if the people went beyond “verbal aggressive language” or threw objects more dangerous than empty water bottles. It also authorized “use of deadly force anytime under Ch 9 Texas Penal Code” if people went beyond throwing full water bottles or bricks.
In addition, CBP and other agencies supplied Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SMUAC), which were deployed along with several overwatch units “to monitor the crowd for violent ‘agitators,'” according to the documents.
Drake called the force excessive, unnecessary and “deeply concerning.”
“CBP has a long history of surveilling border communities, and groups like the ACLU and others have raised serious concerns of privacy of them using those drones and other surveillance tactics,” Drake said.
“To deploy BORTAC units and sniper units and CBP assets to such an event is highly concerning to us and should be highly concerning to everyone,” he said.
The records show federal agents were given instructions to escalate use of force should there be protests against racial injustice and police brutality at the burial service. The funeral service was held without serious incidents of violence, according to the report.
“At a time when our nation is calling for an end to police brutality, our government is responding to communities grieving the relentless murder of black people at the hands of police with more police and over-militatization. It’s shameful and inhumane,” said Madhuri Grewal, ACLU federal immigration policy counsel.