Michael Brown shooting: Amnesty International sends team within US for first time as National Guard deployed

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon sends reserve military force to help quell violence in Ferguson after fresh clashes erupted last night

Natasha Culzac
Monday 18 August 2014 13:03
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Amnesty International deploys within US for the first time as clashes continue in Ferguson
Amnesty International deploys within US for the first time as clashes continue in Ferguson

As anger erupted again on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, a human rights team from Amnesty International worked on the ground in the US for the first time ever.

Confrontation flared up after an autopsy found that Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager who was fatally shot by an officer on 9 August, had suffered at six bullet wounds including one in the top of his head.

Eye-witnesses report seeing police, with no visible ID badges, hurling tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters and threatening members of the press in another night of demonstrations.

Amnesty International, said it would be observing police and protester activity and gathering testimonies as well as training local activists “on methods of non-violent protest” in an “unprecedented” move by the campaigners.

Amnesty International USA's Executive Director, Steven W Hawkins said that the “people of Ferguson have the right to protest peacefully the lack of accountability for Michael Brown’s shooting”.

Jasmine Heiss, one of the 13-strong team sent by Amnesty, told Buzzfeed that the limits placed on the organisation’s access to post-curfew areas was indicative of “the overall lack of transparency in this investigation”.

“Law enforcement, from the FBI to state and local police, are obligated to respect and uphold the human rights of our communities,” Mr Hawkins said in a statement on 14 August.

“The US cannot continue to allow those obligated and duty-bound to protect to become those who their community fears most," said Amnesty International USA's executive director, Steven W. Hawkins.”

The fresh dissidence has led to Jay Nixon, the Governor of the state of Missouri, ordering the deployment of National Guard troops to “protect life and property”, he said in a statement this morning.

The military will, he says, will “maintain peace and order” by closing streets and thoroughfares, if it must, after the events that have unfolded have “continued to create conditions of distress and hazard to the safety, welfare and property of the citizens of the community beyond the capacities of local jurisdiction”.

Relations between protesters and police quickly deteriorated yesterday as a second night under curfew began, following the State of Emergency that was declared on Saturday.

Officers say they were responding to gunfire, looting, vandalism and the hurling of Molotov cocktails at them, with at least two people wounded.

"Based on the conditions, I had no alternative but to elevate the level of response," said Captain Ron Johnson, from the Missouri Highway Patrol.

A number of journalists present at the clash in the early hours of this morning reported being threatened with tear gas if they didn’t move, as they were shepherded away from the media enclosure.

Complex Magazine said that police had opened fire into the crowds without warning three hours before the midnight curfew began, causing some children and members of the media to be hit with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Two black journalists from Complex also said that they had been racially profiled, being refused re-entry into the press area whereas white members of the press had been.

While tensions ran high in Missouri, another demonstration in Los Angeles, 1,800 miles away, saw 500 people congregate outside police headquarters to protest the fatal shooting of another unarmed black man, who was killed 11 August.

Ezell Ford, 25, died in hospital after being shot by an LAPD officer – Ford’s family say he had been cooperating with police and was lying on the ground when hit, however police say that Ford was trying to grab one of their guns, according to Reuters.

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