Geneva | The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Wednesday denounced “structural racism” and “unprecedented aggression” against journalists in the United States, in the grip of a large-scale protest against racism and police brutality.
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“Voices calling for an end to the murders of unarmed African-Americans must be heard. Voices calling for an end to police violence must be heard. And the voices calling for an end to the endemic and structural racism plaguing American society must be heard, “said Michelle Bachelet in a statement.
The statements come as thousands of protesters across the United States challenged the curfew to assemble and protest following the death of George Floyd, an African American man who was grounded face down on the ground until to asphyxiation by a white police officer in Minneapolis.
Ms. Bachelet called for clear and constructive leadership to lift the country out of this crisis, in an apparent criticism of the attitude of President Donald Trump who opted for intransigence, not reconciliation, and threatened to appeal to the regular army to restore “law and order”.
“Particularly during a crisis, a country needs its leaders to unequivocally condemn racism, to reflect on what has led the population to extreme anger, to listen and learn from the situation and to take action. measures to really correct inequalities, ”said Ms. Bachelet again.
The statement also said “credible reports of disproportionate and unnecessary use of force by law enforcement officials” during the protests.
Thus, adds the text, tear gas and rubber bullets were fired at demonstrators and journalists “who did not represent an imminent risk of serious injury”.
Ms. Bachelet was particularly alarmed by reports that at least 200 journalists were molested or arrested while covering the protests, and that the signs attesting to their quality as journalists were clearly visible.
“What we are witnessing is an unprecedented attack on journalists,” said Ms. Bachelet, noting that “in some cases (these journalists) were attacked or arrested when they aired their story. “
“It is all the more shocking that freedom of speech and of the press are fundamental principles in the United States,” she said.
“Journalists must be able to do their important work without being subjected to aggression or repression,” she said.
Ms. Bachelet also asked the protesters to refrain from any violence and deplored the human and material damage during the demonstrations. “Violence, looting and the destruction of property will not solve the problem of police brutality and persistent discrimination,” she said.
She also expressed concern over statements aimed at viewing the protesters as terrorists.
“There is no question who or what is” behind “these protest movements,” said Ms. Bachelet. “We have seen thousands and thousands of peaceful protesters from diverse backgrounds marching to defend their rights and demand that things change.”