CIVIC is gravely concerned with the U.S. government’s response to public demonstrations in the United States, which has escalated violence rather than address public concerns about the recurring killing and excessive use of force against unarmed Black people by the police. CIVIC is also concerned with the widespread reports of excessive use of force against protestors, as well as human rights violations by U.S. police and National Guard involved in the response. We condemn this behavior and encourage accountability for abuses. Any suspected violation of human rights by any member of the security forces should be investigated and the perpetrators held to account. We have also seen examples of restraint and community responsiveness exhibited by law enforcement officials, which should be replicated.

We warn against the deployment of U.S. military forces into U.S. cities. Placing the U.S. military, which is neither trained nor suited to manage demonstrations, at the forefront of the government’s response significantly increases the risk of death, injury, and abuse. We remind the Pentagon that when using force outside of a situation of armed conflict, U.S. military forces are subject to the same legal obligations as civilian police. All security forces responding to these protests should be concerned, first and foremost, with the protection of human lives and civil liberties.

CIVIC’s Executive Director, Federico Borello said, “CIVIC has worked in areas affected by conflict and severe violence around the world. We can attest to the fact that the escalation of violence by the government almost always begets more violence, and civilians always suffer as a result. Terms such as ‘battlespace’, ‘urban warfare’, and ‘insurrection’ have no place in a government’s policy for managing public safety during protests and demonstrations, and should be confined to circumstances of armed conflict. The public is not an armed opposition group. As an alternative, state and federal authorities have the opportunity and power to engage communities, especially the marginalized and most vulnerable, to hear their concerns and needs, and to ensure they receive the accountability and protection they deserve from local security forces through meaningful reforms.”

The situation in the United States, and the many incidents of violence against Black communities that precipitated it, provides clear and compelling evidence of the value of meaningful constraints on the use of force, the importance of impartiality and accountability for security force conduct, and the dangers of militarizing civilian police. Given its tremendous global influence, the steps taken in coming days by American government officials will reverberate around the world. The United States can lead by reforming its public security institutions and improving their legitimacy; or it can give those seeking to use unrestrained power against civilian populations with impunity another excuse to do so.

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