Amnesty International Says US Police Must End Militarized Response to Protests
(May 31, 2020) — Amnesty International issued a statement on Sunday morning calling for an end to militarized policing in several US cities and the use of “excessive force” against demonstrators protesting police brutality.
Why it matters: The human rights group said police across the country were “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.”
“Equipping officers in a manner more appropriate for a battlefield may put them in the mindset that confrontation and conflict are inevitable.”
— Amnesty International statement
The big picture: The National Guard mobilized and curfews were imposed in several states after clashes between police and demonstrators protesting the May 25 death of George Floyd and other black people who’ve died in police custody.
Some officers responded to protests with restraint. Others used batons, tear gas, rubber bullets and other devices to disperse protesters and, in some cases, journalists.
Zoom in: Authorities fired tear gas again Saturday during clashes with protesters in Minneapolis, where demonstrations entered a fifth day.
In New York City, video showed police officers driving their cars into a group of protesters. Mayor New York City Mayor Bill de Blasiosaid, “If those protesters had just gotten out of the way … we would not be talking about this situation.”
In Florida, there were reports of police using tear gas and pepper spray amid violence in cities including Miami and Tampa Bay.
In Las Vegas, police deployed tear gas after protesters vandalized patrol cars, looted a store and set off fireworks, NBC News notes.
In Columbus, police used tear gas to disperse crowds. The local mayor said officers showed “great restraint” after protesters taunted them and threw objects, per ABC News.
In Seattle, tear gas was also deployed. The police said in a statement protesters had thrown bottles at officers.
In Denver, police used tear gas to successfully force protesters back just after the 8pm curfew imposed in response to the unrest came into effect, The Denver Channel reports.
Of note: Georgetown Law professor Paul Butler, author of “Chokehold: Policing Black Men,” noted the reactions of some police this week were different to the response to demonstrations against coronavirus restrictions in Michigan last month.
“Unarmed people, many of whom are people of color, protest police brutality and are met with police brutality — flash grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets,” he told Vox. “But when armed, mainly white protesters storm the Michigan state capitol, the police just let them be.”
What they’re saying: President Trump praised police for their conduct and slammed protesters, some of whom he described in a tweet as “THUGS.”
“What we are now seeing on the streets of our cities has nothing to do with justice,” Trump said Saturday.
NYPD Chief Terence Monahan tweeted, “We’ll always welcome protestors who want to peacefully express their views. When violent individuals throw bottles, rocks, and cause serious injuries to our officers — we will make arrests.”
Fraternal Order of Police national president Patrick Yoes said in a statement last Thursday in response to Floyd’s death, “We know what happens in communities when police officers lose the respect and trust of the public they protect.”
“Especially after a tragedy like we saw in Minneapolis, we need to do two things,” he continued. “Take a hard look at our own actions and conduct, correct them where necessary, and to regain that trust by continuing to hold ourselves to the highest possible standard in a transparent way.”
ACTION ALERT: Stop Arming Militarized Police with Pentagon Weapons
(June 1, 2020) — Last night Senator Brian Schatz announced he intends to introduce an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Action to put a stop to the transfer of military weapons and machinery to local police departments.
We’ve seen how these weapons and systems can escalate and instigate violence when in the wrong hands, so we’re asking you to sign on as a citizen co-sponsor of Sen. Schatz’s amendment and join VoteVets in calling for the end of this program.
As Donald Trump tweets through his mounting failures from his underground bunker at the White House, he leaves America void of leadership from the top. Meanwhile, his allies are calling for him to turn the military against its own citizens. He’s already signaled a desire to send in our military to occupy American cities and crush displays of protests, as recently as a few hours ago.
Sen. Schatz’s proposal to stop the transfer of military weapons to local police departments is an effective measure we can all support right now in order to stem the tragic violence we’ve seen from the militarization of our police forces across the country.
ACTION: If you’re with us, add your name to our petition in support of ending the transfer of military weapons to local police departments today.
This is one way this team can make a difference in just a few simple clicks. Sen. Schatz will need all the help he can get to introduce and pass this amendment, so we have to start rallying support right now.
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