Amnesty International in Baltimore
After the funeral of homicide victim, Freddie Gray due to the alleged severing of his spine from multiple Baltimore City police officers, some protests in Baltimore turned violent. While there was criminal activity including looting, vandalism, and destruction of public and private property, the Baltimore City Police department and Government over reacted using riot shields, semi-automatic weaponry, armored vehicles, tear gas and other military grade weapons to control the city when only a small fraction of the protestors were actually violent. In addition to the Baltimore City Police department, the national guard also called in troops to help ‘control’ the situation in Baltimore resulting in even more excessive weaponry. Although much of the media justified this use of force by labelling the protesters as “Gang bangers”, “Thugs”, “Animals” and a host of other names, Amnesty International stood up for the people’s right to protest without the excessive pushback from police. Amnesty International’s United States chapter sent in a team to observe the protests in Baltimore and hold the officers accountable for protecting citizens’ rights to assemble peacefully and restrain officers from using excessive force in reaction to protestors who are for the most part peaceful and simply emotional over the issues that plague their communities.
Amnesty International released several statements to show support of Baltimore protestors and summarize their own stance on the situation,
1. “We are calling on the police in Baltimore to exercise restraint, and to ensure that peaceful protesters can assemble and the media can do its job without undue interference”
2.“Confronting protesters in a manner more appropriate for a battlefield may put law enforcement in the mindset that confrontation and conflict is inevitable rather than possible.”
3. “Excessive force, such as tear gas, should not be used to curtail the rights of a non-violent majority in order to quell the acts of a few”
While Amnesty International is not weighing in on the politics of the situation, their presence will surely put pressure on law enforcement to treat all citizens as law-abiding protestors rather than “criminals” or “thugs” unless given probable cause.