Amnesty International said in a new report Tuesday that U.S. law enforcement committed dozens of human rights violations in their handling this summer of demonstrations after the death of George Floyd.
The human rights watchdog group accused police of violating the rights of protesters who were peacefully demonstrating at least 125 times in late May and early June, immediately after Floyd’s death on Memorial Day.
The report said authorities violated the right to assemble peacefully “through intimidation involving the use of militarized equipment; excessive force, including the use of batons, kinetic impact projectiles and tear gas and pepper spray; and the targeting of activists, journalists, legal observers and street medics.”
Amnesty said police responding to protests in riot gear created an “atmosphere of fear and terror that was confrontational and intimidating” and missed chances to de-escalate tense situations.
“Law enforcement tear-gassed and pepper-sprayed members of the media, shot them directly with percussion grenades, used unnecessary physical force against them, inflicted serious injuries with kinetic impact projectiles and detained and arrested them without proper access to medical care or disclosure of their legal rights — a violation of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” the report states.
The report said journalists and street medics were clearly identifiable when they were confronted by police and arrested.
The organization also said police repeatedly harassed legal observers, even though they wore “easily identifiable brightly colored clothing” and arrested some in Chicago, Atlanta, Las Vegas and New York City.
“Legal observers play a vital role in ensuring protesters’ rights are protected and should never be targeted for arrest due to the conduct of protesters or in order to prevent their monitoring, which are both essential to hold police accountable if and when they abuse their authority and also serve as a necessary public check on their actions,” the report states.
Amnesty called on the U.S. Congress to pass a bill to limit law enforcement’s ability to use lethal force during peaceful protests.
On Tuesday, a subcommittee of the Senate judiciary committee is scheduled to hold a hearing examining “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.”
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