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USA: police must end 'excessive' militarised response to George Floyd protests

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Heavy-duty riot gear and military-grade weapons ‘more appropriate for a battlefield’ used by police

Federal government should set up commission to investigate policing crisis

‘Racism and white supremacy are fuelling these killings and the police response to the protests’ - Rachel Ward

Reacting to heavy-handed, militarised policing in response to protests in several US cities this weekend following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Monday, Rachel Ward, National Director of Research at Amnesty International USA, said:

“In city after city, we are witnessing actions that could be considered unnecessary or excessive force.

Equipping officers in a manner more appropriate for a battlefield may put them in the mindset that confrontation and conflict are inevitable.

“US police across the country are failing their obligations under international law to respect and facilitate the right to peaceful protest, exacerbating a tense situation and endangering the lives of protesters.

“Police must engage in de-escalation, before the situation worsens.”

A police officer who was sacked following footage showing him pinning George Floyd to the floor with his knee despite Floyd’s cries that he couldn’t breathe, has -  after a delay of several days - now been arrested and charged with Floyd’s murder.

Rachel Ward added: 

“Racism and white supremacy are fuelling these killings and the police response to the protests.

“President Trump must end his violent and discriminatory rhetoric and policies, and the US government - at all levels - must ensure the right to protest as guaranteed by international law.”

Heavy-duty riot gear and military-grade weapons

Police use of heavy-duty riot gear and military-grade weapons and equipment to patrol largely peaceful demonstrations may intimidate protesters who are practising their right to peaceful assembly. These tactics can lead to an escalation in violence.

Rachel Ward said:

“The police must de-militarise their approach and engage in dialogue with protest organisers to reduce tensions and prevent violence, or to stop it as soon as it breaks out, to protect the right to peaceful assembly.

“All unnecessary or excessive force must cease immediately, and all instances of potentially excessive or unnecessary force against protesters must be investigated. Any officers who broke the law must be held accountable.”

Urgent action needed to stop police killings

Amnesty is urging the federal government and US cities and states to act swiftly and meaningfully to address the root cause of these protests and take immediate measures to stop unlawful killings of black people and others by police, including:

  • Officers must be prosecuted;
  • All US states must pass laws to restrict the use of lethal force as a last resort to prevent an imminent threat to life;
  • Congress should pass the PEACE Act to create a federal standard and incentivise state reform; and
  • The federal government should set up a national commission to address all aspects of this crisis including killings by police, the right to protest and ending discrimination.


Notes to editors:

Additional research and statements from Amnesty International USA on policing, the right to protest and developments in Minneapolis, can be found below:

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