A medic treats Black Lives Matter protester Lacey Wambalaba after exposure to chemical irritants deployed by federal officers at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse, July 24, 2020, in Portland, Oregon.
A medic treats Black Lives Matter protester Lacey Wambalaba after exposure to chemical irritants deployed by federal officers at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse, July 24, 2020, in Portland, Oregon.

GENEVA - The U.N. Human Rights Office is criticizing the reported use of unnecessary and excessive use of force by U.S. federal and local security officers against peaceful protestors in Portland and other U.S. cities.

U.N. human rights officials are expressing concern about the U.S. security forces cracking down on anti-racism protests in the U.S. city of Portland.

They say people have a right to protest peacefully and should not be subjected to unnecessary, disproportionate and discriminatory use of force.  

 

Smoke fills the sky as federal officers try to disperse Black Lives Matter protesters on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Portland,…
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U.N. human rights spokeswoman, Liz Throssell, says people and journalists reporting on protests should not be under threat of arbitrary arrest or detention or subjected to other violations of their human rights.  

“There have been reports that peaceful demonstrators have been detained by unidentified police officers and that is a worry because it may place those detained outside the protection of the law and may give rise to arbitrary detention and other human rights violations," Throssell said.  

The protests in Portland, Oregon, began nearly two months ago, following the killing of African American George Floyd while in police custody in the city of Minneapolis.   The demonstrations have been largely peaceful, but recently marred by looting, arson and damage to property.

A federal officer fires crowd control munitions at Black Lives Matter protesters at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse, July 24, 2020, in Portland, Oregon.

U.S. President Donald Trump said he sent federal forces into Portland to restore law and order.  He said he wanted to help the leaders in the northwestern U.S. city, who he said had “lost control of anarchists and agitators.”

Throssell tells VOA it is important that authorities ensure that the security officers who are deployed are not threatening the use of force to deter protestors.  She adds that those deployed must be clearly identified.

“It is very important when there is an incident that then it can be traced back to who is responsible," Throssell said. "When people who are taking on a policing role are not identifiable, that can really heighten the risk of arbitrary detention.  So, it is really to underscore the accountability of the forces that are being deployed.  It is really important that they are clearly identifiable.”

The U.N. rights office is calling for an impartial and transparent investigation into allegations of human rights violations by U.S. authorities.  It says people who are victims of excessive force and other abuse have the right to remedy, and those responsible for these crimes should be held accountable.