Police in Ferguson, Missouri
Tactical police fire tear gas to disperse protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown © EPA

On August 9, unarmed teenager Michael Brown was shot dead by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Since then the community has taken to the streets to protest against the force that took one of their sons.

The police response has been heavy-handed and violent. Brutal methods such as tear gas and rubber bullets have been used to suppress the protests.

Two journalists, Ryan Devereaux and Lukas Hermsmeier, were shot in the back by rubber bullets while reporting on the protests following the death of Michael Brown. At the time they were approaching police lines with their arms raised shouting ‘we are media’.

They were arrested and had their wallets confiscated, which meant they were unable to inform their lawyers. News of the arrests surfaced because another journalist, David Carson, posted it on Twitter.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, police tactics changed. While no tear gas was used, media were kept apart from the protestors and official observers were also harassed.

What we are doing

We have a team on the ground in Ferguson, observing the actions of police and protestors, gathering testimonies, and offering support to the community. Our 12-member team is also training local activists on methods of non-violent protest.

‘We criticize dictators for quelling dissent and silencing protestors with tactics like curfews, we’ll certainly speak out when it’s happening in our own backyard. The people of Ferguson have the right to protest peacefully the lack of accountability for Michael Brown’s shooting.’
Steve Hawkins, Executive Director at Amnesty USA

Time for decisive action

We are concerned that the authorities have made little attempt to reach out to the local community and calm existing tensions.

We are calling for a prompt and independent investigation into the death of Michael Brown and the use of heavy-handed tactics to disperse protestors in the wake of the shooting.

We want to the police on the ground to act in accordance with international human rights standard and a thorough review of all training, policies and procedures with regards to the use of lethal force and the policing of protests.

The law is clear – police should apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force. The intentional lethal use of firearms is only permissible if strictly unavoidable in order to protect life. It is time for decisive action to end unnecessary and excessive force.

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