Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative
The unacceptable killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many others have sparked worldwide protests against police brutality and against structural and other forms of racism. Many members of the humanitarian disarmament community have spoken up in solidarity with and support of the #blacklivesmatter movement. They have condemned enduring racial injustice and violations of the human rights of the black community, urged supporters to get involved in the movement for racial justice, and pledged to hold themselves accountable in addressing systemic racism and white supremacy within their own movements.
Some within the humanitarian disarmament community have called for an end to police brutality and argued that “reforms are futile” until the institution of the police is disarmed, demilitarized, and defunded. At a bare minimum, as states respond to the protests, it is imperative that they abide by the laws and international standards restricting the use of force by law enforcement. Relevant guidelines include those outlined by the International Committee of the Red Cross in its recent Q&A on legal restrictions on the use of force in law enforcement operations and the United Nation’s Guidance on Less-Lethal Force Weapons in Law Enforcement.
Meanwhile, others in the humanitarian disarmament community have urged protestors, if they see abandoned riot control munitions, to remember three key safety rules: 1) Never touch or disturb the item in any way; 2) Mark the area with items at hand to warn others; and 3) Report the item to trusted local leaders. They have encouraged protestors who see munitions to take a picture if safe to do so, and share the photo with the hashtag #usedonprotests.
The work of dismantling structural racism and putting an end to police brutality has been ongoing for centuries and will require continued and sustained efforts from across society. The Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative echoes our colleagues’ condemnation of racial injustice and extends our deepest sympathies to the survivors and families of victims of racism and police violence. To do our part in creating change, we and others in the humanitarian disarmament community should learn more about racial injustice and police violence, reflect upon how those issues manifest within our movements and our work, and take action towards a more just and equitable world.