HOUSTON — Newly uncovered documents from U.S. Customs and Border Protection reveal the agency’s planned massive presence and militarized police response at George Floyd’s burial service in Pearland, Texas, on June 9, 2020 — a response which included the deployment of 66 paramilitary agents from Border Patrol’s BORTAC unit, six snipers, and authorized use of both gas munitions and deadly force against the mourners.
The documents were revealed following public information requests filed by the ACLU of Texas. The documents reveal in addition to the Department of Homeland Security deploying BORTAC agents, six sniper teams were stationed on the roofs of nearby buildings, and the National Guard sent 100 members. DHS also deployed drones, and the FBI used planes to monitor the service while several DHS units surveilled social media around the event.
“These documents paint a chilling picture of federal agents unleashed in our cities. CBP is a rogue agency that has operated with violent impunity in border communities. Now they are being deployed as a federal police force to cities across the country in collaboration with local police,” said Shaw Drake, policy counsel of the ACLU of Texas Border Rights Center. “CBP is the largest law enforcement agency in the country, and also the least accountable. It’s disturbing to see they made preparations to tear gas or kill people who were mourning another death at the hands of police. CBP has no place in our communities, period.”
The records show the 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 plan included authorized use of gas munitions and deployment of BORTAC forces against the crowd if the people went beyond “verbal aggressive language” or threw objects more dangerous than empty water bottles, and authorized “use of deadly force anytime under Ch 9 Texas Penal Code” if people went beyond throwing full water bottles or bricks.
CBP has a long history of abuse, violence, and human rights violations — most recently seen in response to Black Lives Matter protests. DHS has deployed CBP agents and resources to various cities over recent months as people have taken to the streets to protest police brutality and demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the countless other Black people killed by police. Federal agents, including CBP, have used violent force during these protests — including using tear gas, impact munitions, and acoustic weapons against journalists, protesters, and legal observers and abducting protesters in Portland.
“It is not lost on us that CBP deployed snipers and federal agents to surveil and potentially use military-style force against people mourning George Floyd.” said Madhuri Grewal, federal immigration policy counsel at ACLU. “Congress pumps billions into CBP annually, and this is what the agency is doing with our taxpayer dollars. 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 overmilitatization. It’s shameful and inhumane.”