The situation in Ferguson, Missouri has become so volatile that the human rights organisation Amnesty International has sent a 13 person team of observers and organisers – the first time it's ever done so in America.
The team stationed in Ferguson will observe the behaviour of both police and protesters and also offer support and guidance to protesters and local residents. They've been working there since last Thursday. Last night, they even acted as medics to help protesters who had been severely hurt by police tear gas.
Amnesty International observers also warned demonstrators that police are also using sonic crowd dispersal devices that will "make you sick" in order to break up the protests:
The human rights group is most concerned about the disproportionate police response to the protests sparked by the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, and the limits that local authorities have placed on the demonstrators.
Amnesty said in a statement: "Law enforcement, from the FBI to state and local police, are obligated to respect and uphold the human rights of our communities. The U.S. cannot continue to allow those obligated and duty-bound to protect to become those who their community fears most."
It also tweeted this pretty pointed aside this morning:
US can't tell other countries to improve their records on policing and peaceful assembly if it won't clean up its own human rights record— AmnestyInternational (@amnesty) August 19, 2014
Steven W. Hawkins, the executive director of Amnesty International USA, told the Independent that "the people of Ferguson have the right to protest peacefully the lack of accountability for Michael Brown’s shooting”. He called for a "thorough investigation into Michael Brown's death and the series of events that followed".
The death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, has torn Ferguson apart, resulting in mass protests and altercations between police and furious citizens who believe that Brown's death is emblematic of police discrimination against African-Americans. Ferguson is a town where two-thirds of the population is black and 50 out of 53 police officers are white.
The police have been criticised for using tear gas and rubber bullets to dispel the protesters. Some protesters have hit back with Molotov cocktails and bricks hurled in windows. Tensions reached an all-time high on Sunday night: during stand-offs with demonstrators, police fired rubber bullets, detained people for failing to disperse and reportedly threatened journalists with guns.
Relations with the press have been especially strained, with many journalists reporting police intimidation and harassment. Last week, footage emerged of police teargassing Al-Jazeera journalists, unaware that they were being filmed by another media outlet. You can watch the police officers forcibly move CNN's Don Lemon in this video:
Amnesty says it will be working to calm the situation and offer transparency and acountability. Hawkins says that the delegation "will remain in Missouri until we have a clear picture of what is taking place on the ground, and we are able to work effectively with local activists on how to defend human rights at home."
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