Police driving their SUV cruisers into protesters in Brooklyn, New York.
National Guard and local officers firing paint gun rounds at people standing on their own front porch in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Massive armored S.W.A.T. vehicles and lines of riot police in Columbia, South Carolina and elsewhere.
Police units firing rubber bullets and tear gas at kneeling, non-violent demonstrators in Dallas, Texas.
Riot police knocking an elderly man walking with cane to the ground in Salt Lake City, Utah.
These were just some of the outrageous and violent scenes captured on video Saturday night amid demonstrations and uprisings in cities across the U.S. in protest of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week and the long history of police violence and social neglect in the country.
This is the first accurate headline I’ve read tonight. https://t.co/sbjvxcGZzE
— Ayelet Waldman (@ayeletw) May 31, 2020
Here’s what happened in Brooklyn:
Shocking scenes of two police cars in Brooklyn just driving through a crowd of protesters. pic.twitter.com/ZuZjhOHoNY
— redfish (@redfishstream) May 31, 2020
This is what it looked liked when people standing on their front porch in a quiet neighborhood in Minneapolis when the National Guard marched down the street telling everyone to “Get in you house, now!” before ordering “Light up em” and opening fire with paint pellets:
Share widely: National guard and MPD sweeping our residential street. Shooting paint canisters at us on our own front porch. Yelling “light em up” #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd #JusticeForGeorge #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/bW48imyt55
— Tanya Kerssen (@tkerssen) May 31, 2020
This is what it looks like when police officers push down an elderly man in Salt Lake City:
— Natural Health Source (@OverAllCareTips) May 31, 2020
This was the scene Columbia which left a commentator to declare “we are living in a police state”:
Found the source of the flash bangs. Police line moving down Gervais now from Park. pic.twitter.com/R44l7PAh3j
— WIS News 10 (@wis10) May 31, 2020
And here non-violent demonstrators in Dallas, Texas kneeling down and chanting “hands up, don’t shoot” just before riot police open fire with tear gas:
— meg’s lil pony (@almondbabyal) May 31, 2020
Condemning the widespread militarized response by the National Guard and local police forces as an affront to human rights and international law, Amnesty International early Sunday morning condemned the behavior of U.S. law enforcement agencies.
“U.S. police across the country are failing their obligations under international law to respect and facilitate the right to peaceful protest, exacerbating a tense situation and endangering the lives of protesters,” said Rachel Ward, national director of research at Amnesty International USA. “In city after city, we are witnessing actions that could be considered unnecessary or excessive force. We call for an immediate end to any excessive use of force and for law enforcement to ensure and protect the legal right to protest.”
Ward said that all “unnecessary or excessive force must cease immediately, and all instances of potentially excessive or unnecessary force against protesters must be investigated and any officers who broke the law must be held accountable.” Ward argued that it is equipping police officers with military gear and asking them to behave as soldiers in the first place is what often leads to more violent clashes.
“Police must engage in de-escalation, before the situation worsens,” she said. “They should de-militarize their approach and engage in dialogue with protest organizers to reduce tensions to prevent violence or to stop it quickly as soon as it breaks out in order to protect the right to peaceful assembly.”
Amnesty also singled out President Donald Trump by name for sowing further division and violence:
“Racism and white supremacy are fueling these killings and the police response to the protests. The federal government should set up a national commission to address all aspects of this crisis including killings by police, the right to protest and ending discrimination.
— Amnesty International USA (@amnestyusa) May 31, 2020
In a widely shared commentary on Friday night, philosopher and social justice activist Dr. Cornel West argued that what is being witnessed right now in the U.S. is a “perfect storm” of discontent that blends the fresh outrage of Floyd’s killing—and the similar killings of others by police—with the underlying injustice of an American capitalist system that cannot fulfil the human needs of its people and that is soaked in racism and inequality.
“When you talk about the masses of black people—the precious poor and working-class black people, brown, red, yellow, whatever color—they’re the ones left out and they feel so thoroughly powerless, helpless, hopeless—then you get rebellion,” West said.
Worth repeating that all of the police violence you see happening right now has been happening for a long time before there were any camera phones to record it. It’s a daily phenomenon in communities across the country. It’s structurally embedded into how these forces operate.
— Clint Smith (@ClintSmithIII) May 31, 2020
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a viral video post on Saturday afternoon said that anyone calling an end to the so-called “unrest” sweeping the nation in the wake of Floyd’s death is being nothing but hyppocritical and empty if they are not pairing that demand with calls to reform that systems that fuel such anger and despair.
“If you’re trying to call for the end to unrest, but you don’t believe healthcare is a human right,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “If you’re afraid to say Black Lives Matter. If you’re too scared to call out police brutality—then you aren’t asking for an to unrest. You are asking for injustice to continue and for your people to continue to endure the violence of poverty, the violence of lack of housing access, the violence of police brutality and not say a damn thing. That’s what you’re asking for.”
In response to the specific of police violence displayed Saturday in Brooklyn when the police vehicles tried to mow down protesters, Ocasio-Cortez rejected the argument put forth by New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio and others that such use of force was justified.
“NO ONE gets to slam an SUV through a crowd of human beings,” she tweeted. “Running SUVs in crowds of people should never, ever be normalized. No matter who does it, no matter why.”
Update: This post was updated to include comment from Amnesty International.