A police officer points a shotgun at protestors during a demonstration
A police officer points a shotgun at protestors during a demonstration on November 24, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. © Getty Images

People took to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, yesterday to protest against a grand jury's decision not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson for shooting dead unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August this year.

Brown's death in August set off protests at the time, as well as a long-overdue conversation on race, policing and justice. The news that Wilson will not be indicted has relaunched protests in Ferguson, which have now spread to other American cities.

The protests have been largely peaceful, although there have been some incidents of violence by a minority of protesters.

Demand the right to peaceful protest

There cannot be a repeat of the abuses that occurred during the policing of previous protests in Ferguson in August.

The right to peaceful demonstration is a human right that must be protected vigilantly. Officers are duty-bound to respect and facilitate that right, not impede it.

The actions of law enforcement in the next few days will be absolutely critical to provide the necessary confidence that lessons have been learned. We and indeed the world, will be watching.

Take action now via amnestyusa.org and demand that Missouri law enforcement respect everyone’s right to peaceful protest.

Documenting the protests as they happen

Our team on the ground in Ferguson is there to monitor and document any human rights violations by security and police forces overseeing the area. They have reported being teargassed by police in a place designated as a ‘safe space’ - just hours after we reminded Missouri law enforcement officers to refrain from using excessive force to deal with the protests.

The story behind the Ferguson riots

Violence first broke out in Ferguson earlier this year after unarmed teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson. 

The circumstances of the shooting are disputed, but it sparked large scale protests in Ferguson and a crackdown from the police. Within days of the protests starting we had a team of observers on the ground to monitor protests and the police response.

The events in Ferguson have also raised a range of human rights concerns, including the right to life, the use of lethal force by law enforcement, the right to freedom from discrimination, and the rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

August protests

In October we published the report On the Streets of America: Human Rights Abuses in Ferguson which details the intimidation and crackdown on protestors that we witnessed by the police. 

A number of restrictions were placed on protestors, including the imposition of curfews, designated protest areas and a ‘five-second’ keep walking rule. 

The report also details the intimidation of protestors including the use of heavy-duty riot gear and military-grade weapons as well as the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and long range acoustic devices. 

The events in Ferguson sparked a much-needed and long-overdue conversation on race and policing in America. In order to restore justice to Ferguson, and every community afflicted by police brutality, we must both document the injustices committed and fight to prevent them from happening again.
Steven W. Hawkins, Executive Director of Amnesty USA

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