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Head of The Rutherford Institute calls for police demilitarization

Updated: Jun. 3, 2020 at 6:53 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The head of The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit which focuses on civil liberties and human rights, is speaking out against President Donald Trump’s push to militarize police forces across the nation.

John Whitehead is calling for the demilitarization of police, saying the key to peace is to support protesters.

“Do they need grenade launchers? Do they need sniper rifles? Do they really?” he asked.

Whitehead says that use of tear gas and police forces dressed in riot gear only sparks fear.

“A lot of psychologists say that if you are facing off with someone with an AK-47, Kevlar helmet and all this militarized equipment and looking at you like you’re an enemy combatant, it makes a lot of people angry and they start disliking the police and fighting back,” he said.

Scenes from violent protests starkly contrast from a recent peaceful rally in downtown Charlottesville. Whitehead said city police learned from Unite the Right rally how to handle potentially violent situations.

“The police here have adopted a philosophy that they will support protesters rights. Again, that’s what’s key here, it should be,” Whitehead said.

Whitehead also suggested having more opportunities for police officers to meet and work with community members.

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