US police used excessive force at least 125 times in 10 days

  • Amnesty International documented 125 separate cases of excessive force by US security forces between May 26 and June 5.
  • “The unnecessary and sometimes excessive use of force by police against protesters exhibits the very systemic racism and impunity they had taken to the streets to protest,” Ernest Coverson, Amnesty International’s end gun violence campaign manager, said in a statement.
  • The 68-page report, based on interviews with more than 50 people who participated in Black Lives Matter protests, suggests that US police often deployed chemical irritants and rubber bullets indiscriminately, and as a first resort. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Police forces in the US deployed excessive force against anti-racist protesters on no fewer than 125 separate occasions in the 10 days following the death of George Floyd, after officers knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, according to a new report from Amnesty International. Abuses ranged from the unnecessary and unlawful use of tear gas and pepper spray to beatings and the indiscriminate firing of “less lethal” projectiles. the report says.

“The unnecessary and sometimes excessive use of force by police against protesters exhibits the very systemic racism and impunity they had taken to the streets to protest,” Ernest Coverson, Amnesty International’s end gun violence campaign manager, said in a statement.

The 68-page report, based on interviews with more than 50 people who participated in Black Lives Matter protests, suggespolice often deployed chemical irritants and rubber bullets indiscriminately, and as a first resort. 

Those who have attempted to document the police response to protests have not been spared. Linda Tirado, a freelance journalist, lost an eye to a “less lethal” round while covering the civil unrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as she discussed in an interview with Business Insider

“They 100% knew we were journalists,” Tirado told Amnesty International.

Another journalist, Victor Blue, was repeatedly targeted “with tear gas, pepper spray, and kinetic impact projectiles” while covering the protests, the report notes.

“That’s one thing I think everyone would agree on,” Blue told Amnesty, “in Minneapolis, if you had a camera on, they went for you.”

And not just in Minneapolis. In Portland, Oregon, federal agents deployed by the Trump administration have likewise injured a member of the press. Trip Jennings, a photojournalist who’s worked for PBS and National Geographic, told Business Insider that security forces fired a round at his face after flooding the streets with tear gas.

That deployment, in particular, troubles human rights advocates.

“President Trump’s actions represent a slippery slope toward authoritarianism and must immediately stop,” Amnesty researcher Justin Mazzola said in a statement. But reform is needed not just at the federal level, the report asserts, noting that only three states — California, Washington, and Missouri — have passed legislation limiting police use of lethal force.

“We need the country’s approach to the policing of protests to be changed from the ground up,” Mazzola said.

In particular, Amnesty says state legislatures should ensure that lethal force is only to be deployed when “necessary and proportionate to protect against an imminent threat of death or serious injury.” That’s the bare minimum, the group states, to comply with international law.

As it stands, more than 1,000 people are killed by US police each year. The impact is disproportionate: Black people make up 13.2% of the population but just under a quarter of the dead.

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