Rights groups allege constitutional freedoms threatened in wake of Missouri shooting

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy websites] have issued reports alleging the use of police force and intimidation tactics to dispel largely nonviolent protestors following the shooting of an unarmed teenager in Missouri on August 9 threatens constitutional freedoms. Following the shooting, riot conditions overcame [USA Today timeline] the town of Ferguson, Missouri, which included looting of private stores, vandalism and large demonstrations. Demonstrations have continued throughout the past week as a number of details surrounding the investigation remain undisclosed. On Tuesday AI wrote a letter [text, PDF] to the city's chief of police expressing concern over reports that officers used lethal force [AI report], including tear gas and rubber bullets, upon residents and journalists who attended demonstrations on Monday. The letter articulated legal guidelines for the use of police force when handling peaceful demonstrations and access for journalists, and the letter urged the Ferguson Police Department to adhere to the standards of the US Constitution and international human rights codes. On Thursday HRW published an article [HRW report] which alleges police action in Missouri continues to threaten basic constitutional freedoms, including the freedom of assembly and freedom of the press.

Following the shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in Florida in 2012 the US has confronted the issue [JURIST report] of racial profiling by police units, and the recent killing of Michael Brown has reinvigorated similar concerns. On Thursday the parents of Trayon Martin and a similar victim addressed racial discrimination [ACLU report] in the US before the United Nations. On Monday the US Attorney General announced [press release] a statement declaring the investigation of the Brown shooting will receive a "fulsome review." On Tuesday the FBI [official website] opened a probe [WSJ report] into the shooting. In late June the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] published a report [JURIST report] arguing that increased militarization of police forces is putting citizens at risk rather than protecting them.

 

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