Press Releases

CONGRESSWOMAN STACEY PLASKETT RESPONDS TO ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR USING THE VIRGIN ISLANDS TO JUSTIFY USE OF FEDERAL TROOPS AND POLICE IN AMERICAN CITIES

Washington, July 24, 2020

 

For Immediate Release                             Contact: Michael J. McQuerry

July 24, 2020                                                       202-215-8524

PRESS STATEMENT

CONGRESSWOMAN STACEY PLASKETT RESPONDS TO ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR USING THE VIRGIN ISLANDS TO JUSTIFY USE OF FEDERAL TROOPS AND POLICE IN AMERICAN CITIES

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Stacey E. Plaskett released the following statement after Attorney General Barr compared the use of federal law enforcement in American cities to the use of federal law enforcement and the National Guard in the Virgin Islands in 1989 after Hurricane Hugo:

“On June 7th, Attorney General Barr appeared on the Face the Nation program and attempted to compare the imposition of federal law enforcement to the Virgin Islands in 1989 after Hurricane Hugo to legitimize the current Administration’s use of federal troops and police in Washington, DC and other American cities. More recently, this example is being used to justify the President’s decision to send active duty military to Portland, Oregon in the wake of peaceful protest.

“I do not believe the use of federal force in the Virgin Islands in 1989 is comparable to these present situations. When Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989, it damaged 90% of the buildings and destroyed the communication and transportation infrastructure of the Virgin Islands, hindering the ability of the Virgin Islands Government to assess the situation on the ground and communicate with federal officials.

“Following Hurricane Hugo, President George H.W. Bush issued two proclamations to trigger the Insurrection Act. Neither of these proclamations make any mention of this being requested by then Governor Farrelly. These forces were used by the President irrespective of the wishes of the Virgin Islands Government. I think we can all agree that there have been necessary and good uses of the Insurrection Act in rare instances in the past. Of course, the actions that were taken for the desegregation of the South and to protect the civil rights of Black Americans, are a prime example. We can agree that an island devastated by hurricane with no communication is not comparable to Americans exercising their constitution rights of free assembly and free speech are not a comparison.  We should also be able to agree that what is similar is the use of law enforcement to control people of color.

 

“It is important to note that despite the differences between these two situations, Attorney General Barr is willing to use federal law enforcement on people of color to quell the fears and bigotry of those who want to use the police state to control communities of color. In 1989 elements within the Virgin Islands used the initial chaos of a natural pandemic to bring federal law enforcement to supersede the power of the Virgin Islands government and quell black and brown people.  Now, we see the importance in objecting to the misuse of federal power – no one stood up for the Virgin Islands in 1989 and it is now being used again in Portland, Oregon. We must take a stand and prevent the current Administration from taking unilateral decisions to suppress the rights of peaceful protesters.

"If the President truly must use military force against Americans, the Congress, as a co-equal branch, must be able to assess the appropriateness of that usage. I support the recent action of the House, in the National Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal Year 2021, to require the President to certify to Congress that a State or Territory is unable or unwilling to suppress an insurrection whenever a President wishes to deploy active duty military within the United States during civil unrest.”

###