Federal agencies are bolstering arsenals of tear gas, sponge-tipped bullets and other crowd-control gear after President Donald Trump ordered U.S. agents to assume new policing powers in cities to quell protests that he said threatened government monuments, statues and property.
The Justice Department, Homeland Security, and other agencies outside of the military have paid private contractors at least $28.6 million for “less lethal” weapons and armor since May 25, when the death of an unarmed Black man in Minneapolis police custody sparked racial justice protests nationwide. The spending through Aug. 19 marked a 114% increase over the same period last year, according to contract data analyzed by Bloomberg Government.
The purchase of gear — including some lasers and “tactical robots” — coincided with the dispatch of federal agents to protests throughout the U.S. that, while largely peaceful, at times included property damage and violence. The latest unrest has unfolded in Wisconsin after police shot an unarmed Black man in Kenosha and the National Guard was mobilized Monday.
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