“Impunity for State violence has resulted in the current human rights crisis and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
Final report of the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent to the United Nations Human Rights Council, September 2016
The persistent human rights crisis of U.S. police murdering people of color, specifically Black people, without accountability, continues. In the last two weeks alone, Tyre King, a 13-year-old child, was murdered by Columbus, OH police while playing with a BB gun; Terrence Crutcher, a beloved pastor and father, was gunned down by Tulsa, OK police while waiting for his car to be repaired; and Keith Lamont Scott was killed by Charlotte, NC police while reading a book in his car, waiting for his children to get off the school bus.
This year alone, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officers have taken the lives of six people. Over the last two nights, in the wake of the murder of Keith Lamont Scott, people have taken to the streets of Charlotte, demanding their human right to a government fully accountable for their actions. Grieving protesters were met with police armed in riot gear and using tear gas, a chemical which is unlawful in the context of war. This echoes the attacks from earlier this month at Standing Rock when private security contractors unleashed dogs and tear gas on Indigenous Peoples defending their water and land against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The aggressive response to protests in Charlotte reached new lows yesterday evening when multiple eyewitness accounts concluded a protester was shot in the head by police with rubber bullets, leaving him on life support. Police escalation tactics increase the chance of more violence.
At the end of his visit to the US this past July, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Maina Kiai stated:
“It was disturbing to learn that assemblies organized by African-Americans are managed differently, with these protests often met with disproportionate force. Indeed, white and Muslim activists that I met acknowledged that black fellow protesters face harsher police encounters in the context of assemblies: police are more likely to be militarized and aggressive; black people are detained longer after arrests; they face more and heavier charges, more intimidation and more disrespect...It is manifestly unwise to respond to a largely peaceful, grieving crowd with riot gear, random arrests, flimsy charges, rough physical handling, verbal insults and so forth. This is not only a violation of the right to peaceful assembly, it also dangerous for participants, the general public and police officers.”
While acts of property destruction did occur last night, windows and doors are replaceable. The same cannot be said for the human beings killed at the hands of police. What we are witnessing is not just a social justice or civil rights crisis -- it is the frightening disregard for the most basic rights we all have by the virtue of being born: human rights.
We align ourselves and stand in solidarity with victims of state violence and their families. We stand with and are grateful to organizers and members of organizations, all part of the Movement for Black Lives, who are on the front lines of the struggle to defend human rights for all people. And we remain committed to working towards a future that realizes the end of state violence, anti-Black police murder and new practices of safety and justice that affirms our full human rights.
UPDATE 9/23: We just heard that Justin Carr, the protester who eyewitness accounts conclude was shot by police, has passed away. He was 26 years old.
(Photo Credit: Shutter Anthem Photography)