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An excessive police response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the death of an unarmed 18-year-old earlier this year ran the risk of killing demonstrators and impinged on their human rights, according to a new report by Amnesty International.
The report, by Amnesty observers deployed to monitor the protests, found that the militarised reaction to a small minority of violent demonstrators “impacted the rights of all participating” to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly under the US constitution and state law.
Heavily armed police clashed with demonstrators in Ferguson on successive nights in August after Michael Brown was shot dead by officer Darren Wilson. Teargas, stun grenades and rubber and wooden bullets were shot at crowds to force them to leave the streets.
Noting that the so-called “less-lethal” ammunition that was shot at crowds in Ferguson “can result in serious injury and even death”, Amnesty’s 23-page report said on Friday that “at least two children were treated for exposure to teargas” during the protests.
The report made a series of recommendations to authorities on the policing of protests. It called for any officers responsible for human rights violations during the protests to be “brought to account through criminal or disciplinary proceedings as appropriate, and provide full redress to victims”.
The human rights organisation said the use of heavy-duty military-grade equipment by armed officers at demonstrations, which was sharply criticised during the height of the Ferguson crisis, serves to intimidate protesters and “can actually lead to an escalation in violence”.
“Equipping officers in a manner more appropriate for a battlefield may put them in the mindset that confrontation and conflict is inevitable rather than possible, escalating tensions between protesters and police,” said the report.
Jon Swaine writing in Ferguson protests: Amnesty report criticises police excesses for The Guardian.
Ferguson is a city holding its breath as it waits for the other shoe to drop.
The protesters have mostly moved on from West Florissant Avenue, where in August nightly battles with a police force that looked as if it were dressed for war were televised across the US. But the beauty salon, barbecue joint and Chinese restaurant are still boarded up, even if large spray painted letters – “We’re Open!” – make it clear they are still in business.
They are likely to stay that way as their owners anxiously await the next milestone of the Michael Brown tragedy.
Many people in Ferguson expect that the grand jury Continue Reading »