28 Jul UN Rapporteur Condemns Structural Racism, Criminalization after Hearings with NOWCRJ, Stand, NBRM, Allies
NORTH BATON ROUGE MATTERS
NEW ORLEANS WORKERS’ CENTER FOR RACIAL JUSTICE
UN Rapporteur Condemns Structural Racism, Criminalization after Hearings with NOWCRJ, Stand, NBRM, Allies
NEW ORLEANS/BATON ROUGE, July 28, 2016— This week, United Nations Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai made a bold condemnation of the criminalization of African-Americans in the South and around the U.S., after hearing testimony from community leaders from NOWCRJ’s Stand with Dignity, North Baton Rouge Matters (NBRM), and local allies during his 17-day official visit to the United States.
“There is justifiable and palpable anger in the Black community over these injustices,” Special Rapporteur Kiaia said in a statement. “It needs to be expressed.”
Kiai linked the stories of structural racism and discrimination he heard from Stand and NBRM members with his own mandate to monitor the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.
“It is impossible to discuss these rights without issues of racism pervading the discussions,” Kiaia said. “Racism and the exclusion, persecution and marginalization that come with it, affect the enabling environment for the exercise of association and assembly rights.”
Those peacefully protesting in response to the shooting of Alton Sterling have faced a violent and highly militarized response by Baton Rouge law enforcement. A lawsuit, filed by North Baton Rouge Matters, NOWCRJ and the ACLU of Louisiana, highlights examples of excessive force, physical and verbal abuse, and wrongful arrests.
“We have known the reality of police violence during protests and in our daily lives in Baton Rouge,” said Crystal Williams, Founder and Lead Organizer of North Baton Rouge Matters. “Courtney Barns and many others who testified brought tears to our eyes as they described the level of intimidation and retaliation they have experienced for speaking out for Black lives. The world we imagine nurtures and protects Black lives. Our commitment to liberation has not wavered, and we shall see you in the streets and wherever the fight for freedom lives.”
At the hearings with Kiai, community leaders testified about their experiences with police abuse in Louisiana—as well as the ongoing cycle of violence, criminalization, incarceration, and generational poverty African-Americans face as a result of the legacy of racism and current structural exclusion from economic opportunity.
“It is manifestly unwise to respond to a largely peaceful, grieving crowd with riot gear, random arrests, flimsy charges, rough physical handling, verbal insults and so forth,” Kiaia said. “This is not only a violation of the right to peaceful assembly, it also dangerous for participants, the general public and police officers.”
The Advocate newspaper quoted Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards saying he “didn’t think police overall were using excessive force against demonstrators.”
With the condemnation of actions by police in Baton Rouge by the United Nations Special Rapporteur, NOWCRJ and NBRM members call on Governor Edwards and Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden to make a public statement that they will respect the human right to protest and assemble and will not attack peaceful protestors.