Condemn crowd control tactics as crimes against humanity.
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The eyes of the world are upon the United States as police reform is demanded in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by four Minnesota police officers. Protests have been taking place for over a week in all 50 states, and several major cities abroad.
Protesters put their wellbeing on the line unnecessarily when faced with continued brutality of controversial crowd control tactics employed by police, including:
Tear Gas – Police are using the same tear gas that would constitute a war crime if used in battle. Chemical agents indiscriminately target civilians, which can result in physical injury, permanent disability, or even death. Currently, there are no national regulations concerning its deployment or training requirements. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of tear gas as a means to encourage respiratory distress also weaponises the virus.
Rubber Bullets – Footage shows officers firing rubber bullets directly at protesters, incongruous with their intended use. When fired this way, they can cause bone fractures, blindness, miscarriage, organ damage, or even death.
False Surrender & Entrapment – Frontline accounts describe officers kneeling with protesters or holding up signs of solidarity, only to deploy tear gas, rubber bullets, or detain civilians moments later. Stories also describe police officials marching with protesters in solidarity, only to lead them into fortified areas to deploy such tactics. These actions would be forbidden in war, and serve to destabilise public trust.
Water Supply Tampering – Officers have been seen dumping, destroying, or confiscating water supplies belonging to and provided by peaceful protesters. Not only is this water private property, but it is also indispensable to civilian safety and health. In some cases, this water is also intended to be used as medical equipment to combat tear gas symptoms. Again, these practices would be condemned in wartime.
Targeting Of Medical Personnel – Footage shows medical volunteers being explicitly targeted by officers during protests. These medics, who vocally and visually identify themselves, are then tear-gassed, shot with rubber bullets or detained in such a way that restricts their ability to provide care. The violation of medical neutrality constitutes a war crime.
Kidnapping & Arbitrary Imprisonment – With curfew impositions, stories are emerging from civilians arrested without formal charges or due process. Used to clear metropolitan areas, this indiscriminate roundup often falls short of its enforceable objective. Frontline accounts from detention centers highlight a lack of access to phone calls, medical care, and in facilities that do not satisfy social distancing requirements.
The signatories of this petition call upon recipients to condemn these militarized crowd control tactics as crimes against humanity. Crimes against humanity are defined by Article 7 of the Rome Statute, to which the United States refuses to adhere. Many of these tactics are already prohibited as crimes of war, and the same protection must be applied to civilians domestically.
These crowd control tactics are purposely committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack on the civilian population to suppress their right to protest and assemble safely. It is clear that these acts are both geographically widespread throughout the nation and systematically violent against its citizens through strategic deployment. While this is not an explicitly stipulated campaign of aggression, messages from national leaders make their position to not protect citizens clear. Frontline audio and video footage show that police officers understand the role they play in implementing this unspoken policy, neither accidentally nor isolated.
The continued use of these tactics escalates the misguided notion that police are at war with citizens. Condemning these acts will signal the change required to protect the safety of civilian populations through future regulation. The aim of crowd control is to protect, so its methods should not bring about harm.
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