Amnesty International is urging law enforcement to reform its policing policies, after identifying 125 human rights violations during the Black Lives Matter protests.
On Tuesday, the organization released a report in which it documented alleged abuses committed by federal, state, and local police officers between May 26 and June 5 across 40 states. After analyzing police responses to the demonstrations sparked by George Floyd's death, Amnesty concluded that law enforcement had violated people's rights to peaceful assembly through the use of intimidation and violence. The organization specifically noted the use of tear gas, smoke, and percussion grenades, which were not only used against protestors, but also bystanders and journalists.
Per the report:
Using heavy-duty riot gear and military-grade weapons and equipment to police largely peaceful demonstrations intimidates protesters exercising their right to peaceful assembly. Equipping officers in a manner more appropriate for a battlefield may put them in the mindset that confrontation and conflict are inevitable rather than possible and may escalate tensions between protesters and police ... As seen in many countries, inappropriate or excessive police interventions can actually lead to violence and disorder rather than reducing tensions. Indeed, police will have a propensity to use the weaponry they are deployed with and so should not be deployed with weapons that are inherently inappropriate for the operation they are conducting.
Amnesty also launched an interactive map that marked instances of police violence during the demonstrations. The map was a result of an extensive investigation that included the analysis of 500 videos and photos posted on social media as well as consultation with weapons and law enforcement experts. In some of these cases, Amnesty was able to interview the victims and confirm police conduct with local authorities.
"The analysis is clear: When activists and supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement took to the streets in cities and towns across the USA to peacefully demand an end to systemic racism and police violence, they were overwhelmingly met with a militarized response and more police violence," said Brian Castner, senior crisis advisor on Arms and Military Operations at Amnesty International. "The time for applying band-aids and making excuses for a few ‘bad apples’ has passed."
Amnesty is calling on federal, state, and local officials to make sweeping changes to the way law enforcement responds to protests. The organization has urged lawmakers to limit the use of lethal force and "ensure that everyone under their jurisdiction can enjoy their human rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression." Amnesty has also demanded each law enforcement agency to revise the policing policies in accordance with international human rights standards, including those laid out in the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.
"What’s needed now is systemic, root-and-branch reform of US policing that brings an end to the scourge of police use of excessive force and extrajudicial executions of Black people," Castner said. "Communities should not live in fear of being harmed by the very officers that have sworn an oath to protect them. Officers responsible for excessive force and unlawful killings must always be held accountable."