• Press Release

St. Louis Police Urged to Exercise Restraint and Protect Peaceful Protesters

September 15, 2017

Following the verdict in the trial of St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley in the death of Anthony Lamar Smith, Amnesty International USA urged police to exercise restraint regarding those who wish to exercise their right to peacefully protest.

“In light of this verdict, there are bound to be anguished and frustrated reactions from those protesting the death of Anthony Lamar Smith,” said Zeke Johnson, Senior Director of Programs with Amnesty International USA. “Police have a duty to allow peaceful protesters to exercise their right to free speech and assembly. A militarized response to protests risks escalating tensions and endangering both police and protesters. Should there be violent incidents, police should be trained to address them in a manner proportionate to the threat without infringing on the rights and safety of those protesting peacefully.”

“In the wake of this ruling, the Missouri legislature must reform the state’s law regarding the use of lethal force by police. All U.S. states must have laws that meet the international standard of reserving lethal force as an absolute last resort. Until reform happens, families and communities cannot have full faith that there will be accountability for those killed by police.”

In 2015, Amnesty International issued a report that found that all 50 states failed to meet international standards regarding lethal force by police. Missouri is one of thirteen states that have laws that do not comply even with the low standards set by U.S. constitutional law on the use of lethal force by law enforcement officers. The report called for reforms at the state and federal level to bring police practices into compliance with international standards, and to officially collect and publish national statistics on the use of force by police.