Baltimore Police Urged to Exercise Restraint and Protect the Right to Protest

Press Release
December 16, 2015

Baltimore Police Urged to Exercise Restraint and Protect the Right to Protest

BALTIMORE, MD – Following the announcement of a mistrial in the first of several trials related to the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, Amnesty International USA urged police to facilitate the rights to freedom of expression and assembly of protesters.

“While the trials are important in order to seek accountability, the movement for larger policing reforms in Baltimore and across the state continues,” said Margaret Huang, interim executive director of Amnesty International USA.

“The tragic death of Freddie Gray understandably led to protests in the streets of Baltimore, and it should be expected that those who are disappointed with today’s announcement will take to the streets once again. It is the duty of the police to ensure that peaceful protesters be allowed to exercise their right to have their voices heard. Should any acts of violence occur, the police should ensure that those who are protesting peacefully are able to continue to do so, and not use the violent acts of a few as a pretext to restrict or impede the exercise of rights by the majority. A militarized response to protesters who are predominantly peaceful for the purpose of quelling acts of violence by a small minority will only add to tensions and place both civilians and police at risk.”

“Furthermore, local and state officials must not discourage or place undue restrictions upon any residents wishing to peacefully enjoy their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.”

Amnesty International USA has been working with community and coalition partners in Baltimore to continue to raise awareness regarding the unlawful use of force by police and support local and state initiatives for reform.

As a matter of organizational policy, Amnesty International does not comment on jury decisions.

Earlier this year, Amnesty International issued a report that found that all 50 states failed to meet international standards regarding lethal force by police. Maryland is one of nine states that has not enacted a use of lethal force statute. The report called on reforms at the state and federal level to bring police practices into compliance, and to officially collect and publish national statistics on the use of force by police.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning global movement of more than 7 million people in over 160 countries who campaign for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.