Channel 1 Los Angeles
“The voices calling for an end to the killings of unarmed African Americans need to be heard”, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement. “The voices calling for an end to police violence need to be heard”.
Protests first erupted on 25 May, after video footage went viral on social media of a white police officer in the city of Minneapolis kneeling on the neck of 46-year-old African American George Floyd, for more than eight minutes, causing his death while in police custody.
Over the past week, tens of thousands of demonstrators have since taken to the streets of more than 300 US cities, as well as other large urban centres around the world, to take part in mostly peaceful protesting calling for racial justice, but oftentimes chaotic streets have also borne witness to looting, bloodshed and violent policing tactics.
At all times, but especially during a crisis, “a country needs its leaders to condemn racism unequivocally”, Ms. Bachelet underscored.
She continued to say that those in charge must also “reflect on what has driven people to boiling point; to listen and learn; and to take actions that truly tackle inequalities.”
Journalists caught between protesters and police
Credible news reports have revealed unnecessary and disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officers, including indiscriminate use of less-lethal weapons and ammunition, said Ms. Bachelet.
Tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper balls have been fired at peaceful demonstrators and journalists, even in some instances, when they were clearly retreating.
There have been at least 200 reported incidents of journalists covering the protests being physically attacked, intimidated or arbitrarily arrested, despite clearly displayed press credentials, according to the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR).
The UN rights chief flagged that there has been “an unprecedented assault on journalists”, saying that in some cases, they have been attacked or even arrested while on air.
“It is all the more shocking given that freedom of expression and of the media are fundamental principles in the US, central to the country’s identity”, Ms. Bachelet said. “I call on the authorities at all levels to ensure the message is clearly understood – reporters must be able to do their important work, free from attacks or repression”.