Amnesty International recorded and verified incidents of police violence against protesters, news reporters, and medical and legal observers across 40 states and Washington, D.C.
A new report from Amnesty International released Tuesday found that U.S. law enforcement had violated the human rights of Americans during protests in May and June by responding to widespread demonstrations about police brutality with acts of police brutality.
At least 125 incidents of police violence against protesters, news reporters, and medical and legal observers across 40 states and Washington, D.C., were recorded and verified by the international human rights organization after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd spurred a historic wave of Black Lives Matter protests. The New York Times has ruled it the largest movement in U.S. history.
Researchers said American cops indiscriminately used batons and shot rubber or plastic bullets on protests often as a first police response. Those tactics are only allowed to be used as a last resort and for the defense of law enforcement, they said.
“The unnecessary and sometimes excessive use of force by police against protesters exhibits the very systemic racism and impunity they had taken to the streets to protest,” said Ernest Coverson, an Amnesty International USA campaign manager. “The research shows that people who were simply exercising their human right to peacefully protest were met with such violence that they lost eyesight, survived brutal beatings, and suffered seizures and severe wounds.”
According to the report, there were 89 cases where police unnecessarily used tear gas on demonstrators, along with an additional 21 incidents with pepper spray. The use of tear gas is actually considered illegal to use in war, and Amnesty’s report states the organization “believes the use of tear gas constitutes torture under international law.”
The way arrests and detentions of protesters were handled, especially in the cases of protest-related offenses during curfews, also violated the rights of American protesters, the group declared. This can also especially be seen in recent controversial arrests by federal agents in Portland, Oregon.
“The Trump administration is now doubling down on military-style crackdowns against protesters, with Attorney General William Barr’s egregious defense of the use of federal troops in Portland and threats to deploy more agents to other cities,” said Justin Mazzola, a researcher at Amnesty International USA. “President Trump’s actions represent a slippery slope toward authoritarianism and must immediately stop. We need the country’s approach to the policing of protests to be changed from the ground up at the local, state, and federal levels.”
Just two days before Amnesty released its report, another incident involving police and a Black family garnered the attention of millions on social media. A viral video showed young Black girls ranging from six to 17 years old being handcuffed and ordered to lie facedown at gunpoint by Aurora, Colorado, police has garnered the attention of millions on social media.
The girls were walking in a suburb of Denver on Sunday to visit a nail salon when white police officers accosted them. The department claimed their actions were based on a misunderstanding regarding a nearby stolen vehicle.
“There’s no excuse why you didn’t handle it a different type of way,” said Brittney Gilliam, the family driver for the teenagers, to local news station KUSA.
The Aurora police department is already under scrutiny for the 2019 chokehold killing of 23-year-old Elijah McClain because he was “being suspicious.” McClain’s name has become a rallying cry during the demonstrations in Colorado.
Aurora’s interim police chief Vanessa Wilson issued a statement apologizing for how the officers handled the situation over the weekend. “I have called the family to apologize and to offer any help we can provide, especially for the children who may have been traumatized by yesterday’s events.”
Amnesty noted in its report that Black Americans are disproportionately more likely to be pulled over and have police force used against them. The group says those kinds of police actions violate international law prohibiting all forms of discrimination.