• Press Release

Response to Reports of Excessive Force by St. Louis Police Department Against Protesters

August 20, 2015

The following can be attributed to Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA:

“We are deeply concerned about reports of mass protest dispersal tactics, including tear gas, in residential areas of St. Louis last night,” said Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA. The St. Louis Police Department must immediately take all measures to prevent the unnecessary or excessive use of force.

“We have seen this time and again in St. Louis and Ferguson, and again we call on the Department of Justice to conduct a full, impartial investigation of both the police-involved shooting of Mansur Ball-Bey and the response of the St. Louis Police to the ensuing protests.

“As ever, we stand with the communities of North St. Louis, the community of Ferguson, and communities around the country who are demanding rights-respecting, accountable policing, and who are at risk from the very people sworn to protect them.

“The St. Louis Police should be facilitating and not restricting the right to peaceful protest.

“Nobody should have to fear for their safety when they attend a protest. No one should have to fear being tear gassed in their own homes.

“Police officers have a right to defend themselves and a duty to protect the public, but in doing so, they must act with restraint and in accordance with international standards. Force should only be used when nonviolent means have been exhausted or proven ineffective, and lethal force should only be used in situations where it is necessary to protect life.

“We call for an end to the unnecessary or excessive use of force by police in all jurisdictions throughout the country. We call on U.S. authorities to bring local, state, and federal laws in line with international standards.”

“The world is watching, and so are we. Enough is enough.”


Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning global movement of more than 7 million people campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

Last summer, Amnesty International USA was invited to Ferguson, Missouri to work with the community on nonviolent direct action in the wake of clashes between protesters and Ferguson police. Staff and members have continued to stay involved in the Don’t Shoot Coalition, and local Amnesty members in the St. Louis area have engaged in solidarity as legal observers, street medics, and jail support. Additionally, AIUSA sent delegations of human rights observers to Ferguson to monitor policing of protests in the weeks following Mike Brown’s killing, and in the weeks before and after the announcement of the St. Louis grand jury’s decision in the case in November.

Those delegations found clear evidence of unlawful use of excessive force and lack of compliance with international law and standards with respect to policing and human rights. Those findings were documented in the reports On the Streets of America: Human Rights Abuses in Ferguson and in Deadly Force: Police Use of Deadly Force in the United States.

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: