A Department of Justice report found that police used unnecessary force when responding to protests in Ferguson, Mo. following the killing of teenager Michael Brown by police, impacting protesters’ rights to freedom of assembly and expression. The DOJ findings are consistent with those published in a report by Amnesty International USA last year.
Both the Amnesty International USA and DOJ reports document that police imposed impermissible restrictions, including a “five-second” keep-walking rule, and intimidated protesters with the use of canine units, heavy-duty riot gear and military-grade weapons as well as utilized questionable protest dispersal practices, including the improper use of tear gas without warning which not only affected the protesters but the surrounding community.
“Police have a duty to uphold the right to peacefully protest,” said Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “They must not inhibit this right by responding to peaceful dissent while armed to the teeth with military-grade equipment or exposing huge groups of largely peaceful protesters to harmful to harmful chemical agents such as tear gas as a means of crowd control.”
“The Justice Department’s findings underscore the critical need for review and reform of police practices nationwide.”
Amnesty International USA continues to call for the DOJ to review police tactics and practices nationwide, and to release nationwide data on police shootings; and calls on the United States Congress to pass the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act.