With Heavy Hearts, Activists Carry Human Rights Message from #FergusonToGeneva

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With Heavy Hearts, Activists Carry Human Rights Message from #FergusonToGeneva

'We understand that whatever the Grand Jury decides in Missouri, it will not bring Michael back,' Michael Brown's father says. 'We also understand that what you decide here may save lives.'

The room was "pin-drop silent" as Michael Brown, Sr. testified to the UN Committee Against Torture, said #FergusonToGeneva organizer Charles Wade on Twitter. (Photo: Charles Wade/@akacharleswade/Twitter)

The family of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager shot and killed by a white police officer this summer, and grassroots organizers from Ferguson, Missouri are in Geneva, Switzerland this week to testify before the United Nations Committee Against Torture, press for justice in Ferguson and other disenfranchised communities, and "to unite governments around the world against the human rights violations that result from racial profiling and police violence."

The #FergusonToGeneva contingent—comprising Michael Brown, Sr., Michael's mother Lesley McSpadden, human rights advocates, and representatives from the Missouri-based organizations HandsUpUnited, Organization for Black Struggle, and Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment—will also present to the UN a report (pdf) released last month, condemning the Ferguson police department for Brown's killing as well as militarized law enforcement response to subsequent demonstrations. 

The document says Brown's killing and force used by police officers during protests that followed the incident "represent violations of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment."

Those testifying before the committee are calling on the UN to intervene, defend human rights, and push for recommendations like the ones outlined in the report, including:

  • Immediately arrest Officer Darren Wilson, who shot Brown.
  • End racial profiling and racially-biased police harassment across the jurisdictions surrounding Ferguson, Missouri (referred to as North County) by ensuring police forces are racially integrated and reflective of the communities they serve.
  • Improve accountability for police’s use of deadly force, "particularly in black and brown communities."
  • "Ensure transparency, accountability, and safety of our communities by requiring front-facing cameras in all police departments."
  • Mandate that the Attorney General and the Department of Justice conduct a nationwide investigation of systematic police brutality and harassment in black and brown communities, and youth in particular—and make the findings publicly available. 

"Michael was my only son; his death has devastated my family and our community," Michael Brown, Sr. said in prepared remarks to the UN body. "People have vilified him partly because of his color, partly because they placed no value on his life. We understand that whatever the Grand Jury decides in Missouri, it will not bring Michael back. We also understand that what you decide here may save lives."

Brown, Sr.’s statement called on the U.S., in keeping with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s recommendations, to "make a commitment to address racial discrimination in a comprehensive and coordinated way and adopt a National Plan of Action on Racial Justice."

The trip to Geneva, backed by the U.S. Human Rights Network, comes as a grand jury decision in the shooting is expected any day. In a statement released Monday, prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch said the Grand Jury would complete its work and make a decision in mid- to late-November.

In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon told the media that law enforcement agencies from Missouri and local agencies—including, potentially, the National Guard—will all work in a "unified command" when the Ferguson Grand Jury decision is reached.

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