McCaskill: Police treated Ferguson protesters like 'enemy combatants'

A Missouri senator on Tuesday accused the Ferguson police Department of treating protesters like “enemy combatants” last month following the shooting of an unarmed black man.

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“I think most Americans were uncomfortable watching a suburban street in St. Louis with vivid images of a war zone,” Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting Senate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Senate Dems lock in million in TV airtime MORE (D-Mo.) said during a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the first congressional hearing on the militarization of police.

"Those lawful, peaceful protesters did not deserve to be treated like enemy combatants,” she added.

McCaskill is one of many lawmakers who have been critical of a Pentagon program that provides surplus military equipment to local police departments around the country.

Since the 1990s, the Pentagon’s 1033 program has provided police with more than $5 billion worth of military equipment, including assault rifles, body armor, armored vehicles and even drones.

The issue of police departments using military-style equipment was thrust into the spotlight in August, when media outlets began broadcasting footage of officers in Ferguson squaring off with protesters.

Ferguson officers used armored tanks and machines guns in the response to demonstrations, which began after the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer in a street confrontation.

"The federal government has played a significant role in enabling local police departments around the country to acquire this equipment,” McCaskill said.