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Ferguson, USA: Excessive force by police only serves to escalate 'incredibly tense environment'

Following the announcement on Monday (23 November) that the St. Louis County Grand Jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for shooting dead Michael Brown, Amnesty International USA deployed a team of human rights observers to Ferguson to monitor protests and law enforcement response.

After peaceful protests as well as widespread incidents of looting, arson and vandalism, Amnesty International USA Executive Director Steven W. Hawkins said:

“This has to be made clear - the burden to keep protests peaceful is shared. Armored vehicles, tear gas and smoke bombs used large-scale against largely peaceful protesters in order to quell acts of violence by a minority only serves to escalate and exacerbate an already incredibly tense environment.

“Law enforcement officers have a right to defend themselves and a duty to protect the safety of the public, but this role should be carried out in a way that ensures full respect for the right to life, liberty and security of all persons, including those suspected of crime. Even when confronting violence, they must work within the law and in conformity with international standards governing the use of force.

“The eyes of the world continue to watch the events in Ferguson as a measure of the United States’ capacity to respect the fundamental human right to assemble. Our right to protest peacefully should be bolstered by law enforcement, not inhibited through intimidation.”

Amnesty International USA reiterated its calls to the US Department of Justice to demonstrate leadership on this issue, including by collecting national data on police killings, as it is required to do by law; implementing a nationwide review of police tactics; and championing a special law enforcement commission to make recommendations on policing policies and tactics more broadly.

On the Streets of America: Human Rights Abuses in Ferguson is Amnesty’s report on the police response to protests in August in response to the shooting of Michael Brown, published in October.

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