(BALTIMORE, MD) —Following protests over the death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray in police custody, Amnesty International USA Executive Director Steven W. Hawkins issued the following statement:
"The police-related death of another young unarmed black man has understandably sparked anguish and protests in the streets of Baltimore this week. While we await the findings of a prompt, impartial and independent investigation into the death of Freddie Gray, we call on the Baltimore Police to exercise restraint during the protests, to prioritize non-violent means and only use force when absolutely unavoidable, in a manner designed to minimize injury.
"The right to protest and peacefully assemble must be protected by law enforcement, not inhibited by intimidation and excessive force. Officers have the right to defend themselves and a duty to protect the safety of the public, but when confronting violence they must work in accordance with international standards governing the use of force. Large-scale use of tactics like tear gas and smoke bombs should not be used to quell acts of violence by a minority when the majority of protesters are non-violent. Such tactics will only lead to an escalation that places everyone at greater risk.
"In too many cases, state laws governing the use of lethal force are overly broad and unclear, as they are in Missouri, or nonexistent, as they are in Maryland. There must be a statewide review of police policies to ensure that cases like Freddie Gray’s will not be repeated."
For a list of best practices on the policing of protests with respect for human rights, as identified by Amnesty International, please see the following.