Racism turns against white people

USA: Combat structural racism

(Washington, DC, June 3, 2020) - U.S. authorities are called upon to crack down on the structural racism that fuels mass protests across the country, Human Rights Watch said.

National, state and local governments should significantly improve police accountability, drastically reduce unfounded arrests, and refrain from using the police when addressing societal issues such as poverty and health that disproportionately affect blacks. Instead, needy communities and programs are to be supported, through which the long-standing structural racism in various areas, such as health and education, can be combated.

"The anger and frustration that fuel the mass protests in the United States is about more than just the criminal conduct of the police officers who killed George Floyd," said Nicole Austin-Hillery, US program director at Human Rights Watch . "It's about a law enforcement system in which not all human lives count equally and fall victim to black people."

A video shows Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin killing George Floyd by holding him to the ground for more than eight minutes and pressing his knee into Floyd's neck on May 25, 2020. Four days later, Chauvin was charged with murder and manslaughter. Chauvin himself was arrested, but not the other officers involved in the incident. The district attorney is due to immediately bring charges against the other three police officers involved in Floyd's death, Human Rights Watch said.

The death of George Floyd is the latest in a long history of black killings by police officers in the United States in which those responsible were not or insufficiently held accountable. Among the victims in recent years have been Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Delrawn Small, Terence Crutcher, Breonna Taylor and many others. There have also been cases the prosecution did not want to properly investigate, such as that of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was shot and killed by two white men in February while jogging in Georgia.

It is true that killings that were recorded on video like those of Floyd received a great deal of media coverage. Yet police use violence and human rights abuses across the United States, particularly against black people. These attacks may not be fatal, but they harm those affected and are widespread, according to Human Rights Watch. Studies show that the police use violence against blacks far more frequently than against whites, including using tasers or batons. Dog bites, blows and kicks occur. Human Rights Watch research into policing in Tulsa, Oklahoma, found that officers were nearly three times more likely to use tasers against blacks than whites, and that blacks were 2.7 times more likely to be victims of police violence.

Racism in policing reflects unequal treatment in many other areas, including housing, education and health. Politicians should address these fundamental inequalities with programs that specifically address the long-term effects of structural racism, Human Rights Watch said.

"There shouldn't be a video of the police killing a black man to make people worry about the abuse blacks experience every day," said Austin-Hillery. "The extreme cases are just the tip of the iceberg of a system in which racism is structural and in which it is not just about cruel individual actions by evil police officers," said Austin-Hillery.

Police assaults also include unnecessary and harassing arrests and searches, which are often racially motivated. Numerous studies have shown that there are significant differences in how often black and white people are checked or searched by the police. A recent study found that 95 percent of US law enforcement agencies arrested blacks more often than whites, some ten times as likely.

The police arrest people for homelessness and poverty, such as loitering and trespassing on buildings, or for behaviors that should not be criminal at all, such as possession of drugs for personal use or sex work; and for violations that should lead to subpoenas rather than police custody.

For example, the police didn't need to arrest Floyd for allegedly circulating a fake $ 20 bill. If the evidence had required it, the officers could have issued a subpoena.

Across the US, authorities are tasking the police with responding to situations involving problem drug use, homelessness, mental health problems and poverty, rather than funding appropriate services to address these social problems without the police. Governments should significantly reduce their reliance on the police for these tasks and instead invest in housing, affordable and accessible health care, economic development and education - initiatives that address the problems head on - rather than criminalizing people in need.

The fact that such direct solutions do not have priority, are not funded, priority is given to law enforcement, and poverty and other societal problems are criminalized has for decades increased inequalities in American society and harmed poor black communities.

Concerned and frustrated people of all skin colors take to the streets across the United States to protest police violence and the inequalities it causes. The police often counter these protests with unlawful violence, which has escalated the conflict and resulted in bodily harm.

Legislators and policymakers have in recent days offered solutions such as more control over the police, including new investigations into police violence, and an end to qualified immunity - a legal doctrine that protects almost all officials from civil liability accused of assault. These important and overdue steps should be initiated and implemented. But, if anything, it will be years before people in the hardest hit communities notice any improvement.

Nor do the proposals address the fundamental problem that state and local authorities employ too many police officers to make unnecessary arrests in a misguided effort to solve societal problems with policing. Rather, what is needed is a solution that is not based on law enforcement.

The police must also end the illegal and unnecessary use of force against demonstrators. Social media posts show police using vehicles to push dozens of people who appeared to be protesting peacefully behind barricades, with many falling. Demonstrators are pressed to the ground, the police use pepper spray and rubber bullets indiscriminately and apparently for no reason, and fire stun grenades.

A post on social media shows police patrolling an armored vehicle with military equipment in an apparently quiet residential area. After being ordered to “set fire to them”, an officer fires a projectile that hits at least one resident on her own porch. On June 1, President Donald Trump dispatched National Guard troops to use tear gas and stun grenades against peaceful protesters outside the White House to clear his way to the church on the other side of nearby Lafayette Square, where he was photographed.

The US Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the US is a party, protect the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The pact applies to federal, state and local governments. All employees of the law enforcement authorities are obliged to uphold and protect these fundamental rights.

According to the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, law enforcement officers should, as far as possible, use non-violent means before using force. Any use of force by law enforcement agencies must be proportionate and should only occur if other measures to counter a real threat have proven ineffective or there is no likelihood that the intended goal will be achieved. When using force, law enforcement officers should exercise restraint and act proportionately, taking into account both the gravity of the crime and the legitimate aim to be achieved.

"It is unacceptable to counter protests against police violence and for the equal treatment of people of all skin colors with even more police violence," said Austin-Hillery. "If the US doesn't address the issues that are taking people onto the streets at all levels of government, the unrest won't stop."