US law enforcement committed 125 human rights violations during BLM protests, Amnesty says

Within first two weeks of demonstrations after George Floyd's killing, police used 'widespread, unnecessary and excessive' use of force

Alex Woodward
New York
Tuesday 04 August 2020 19:31 BST
Protester says federal troops were escalating the violence in Portland

Law enforcement committed at least 125 human rights abuses against protesters across the US during Black Lives Matter demonstrations within the first two weeks after the police killing of George Floyd, according to Amnesty International.

The organisation found that "again, and again, law enforcement used physical force, chemical irritants, kinetic impact projectiles, and arbitrary arrest and detention as a first resort against largely peaceful demonstrations" and to "enforce hastily rolled out curfews" as protests continued.

Between 26 May and 5 June, the organisation documented 89 instances of the "unnecessary use" of tear gas in 34 states and 21 incidents involving "unlawful use" of pepper spray in 15 states and Washington DC from state and local police, National Guard troops and federal officers.

"The unnecessary and excessive use of specific weapons, such as chemical irritants and kinetic impact projectiles, is ultimately a symptom of the very issue that started these protests: unaccountable police violence," the group said.

Police "confronted protesters while wearing riot gear" and often used chemical weapons as a first resort to disperse protesters who were peacefully assembled, the group found.

The "widespread, unnecessary and excessive" use of irritants like pepper spray and tear gas in the middle of the public health crisis following the coronavirus pandemic also alarmed the organisation.

Following the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and police response to protests, Amnesty International found that all 50 states and Washington DC "fail to comply" with international human rights standards on law enforcement's application of lethal force.

"None of the state statutes require that the use of lethal force be used only as a last resort and that non-violent and less harmful means be tried first," the organisation's report found

Its report following 2020's widespread demonstrations against police brutality reveals "a disturbing lack of progress" after Ferguson, the group said.

"Just three states – California, Washington and Missouri – have taken important but incremental steps, such as by bringing their state laws on lethal force into compliance with US constitutional standards," according to the report.

The organisation recommends federal, state and local officials take "urgent" and "decisive action to address systemic racism and systemic misuse of force in the US."

It calls on Congress and state lawmakers to place strict limits on lethal force and demands law enforcement agencies to "revise their policies and practices for the policing of protests."

"Law enforcement agencies must comply at all times with international human rights standards, including the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials which must be the guiding principles underpinning all operations before, during and after demonstrations," according to the report.

Violations should be then investigated and prosecuted by the Department of Justice, the organisation says.

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