Amnesty International USA on Wednesday called on U.S. mayors, governors, and state attorneys general to protect people from armed groups and to denounce white supremacy as National Guard troops arrived in Washington, D.C. ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration and members of Congress moved forward with an effort to impeach President Donald Trump for inciting an attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Since a pro-Trump mob stormed the halls and offices of Congress on January 6—sparking widespread calls for removing the president from office before Biden is sworn in next week—concerns have mounted that government buildings across the country could see more violence from armed Trump supporters in the coming days.
While U.S. Capitol Police on Monday briefed House Democrats on potential armed demonstrations and assassination plots, news broke that the FBI sent a memo to law enforcement agencies nationwide warning "armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols and at the U.S. Capitol" in the lead-up to Biden's inauguration.
Amnesty International USA's letter (pdf) says the advocacy group "is deeply concerned by reports that armed white supremacist groups and individuals are planning further disruption" and urges local and state leaders "to do everything in your power and within human rights standards and obligations to protect people from violence by these armed groups and individuals, and to condemn white supremacy."
The FBI has warned of armed protesters at state capitals and in DC ahead of Biden’s inauguration.
— Amnesty International USA (@amnestyusa) January 12, 2021
Noting that, for decades, the organization "has documented how racism, discrimination, and hate can lead to widespread violence and disregard for human rights, the letter adds that "we've monitored the unraveling of norms, laws, and rules around the world—and are deeply troubled by what we see happening in the United States, including the violent mob that stormed the Capitol."
"The widespread availability of and lack of uniform restrictions on guns in the United States," the letter continues, "combined with incitement to violence and the enabling and abetting of white supremacy at the highest levels of government has left the country dangerously vulnerable to those who prefer inequity to fairness, hate over unity, and impunity over justice."
The letter—a version of which constituents can send to their local and state leaders—declares that "the world is watching" and provides elected officials with a list of demands so they can meet their "obligations under international law to respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of all people" in light of recent warnings:
- Publicly condemn and demand accountability for incitement to violence and the enabling and abetting of white supremacy at the highest levels of government, including by President Trump and other government officials;
- Publicly condemn armed groups and individuals as a threat to public safety and human rights, and speak out against white supremacy, discrimination, xenophobic rhetoric and incitement to violence by such groups and individuals;
- Issue executive orders, emergency orders, or other temporary special measures to prevent armed white supremacist individuals or groups from intimidating or threatening people;
- Temporarily prohibit the open and concealed carry of firearms in Capitol buildings and in public, including parks, recreational areas, religious institutions, and schools; and
- Direct police departments to adopt and follow Amnesty International's best practices on the policing of demonstrations, and ensure that all law enforcement agencies facilitate freedom of peaceful assembly, without discrimination, particularly in the context of volatile counter-protest situations, with commitments to ensuring transparent investigation and prosecution of unlawful use of force, and vigilantism by armed groups.
Amnesty's letter notes that as the world's largest grassroots human rights group, with more than 10 million supporters, it "takes no position for or against any political ideology, party, candidate, or official" and its "sole purpose is the promotion and defense of freedom, equality, justice, dignity, and human rights worldwide."
In addition to calling for removing Trump from office via the 25th Amendment—which Vice President Mike Pence refuses to do—or a Senate vote—which reporting indicates may have the necessary support from Republicans—some lawmakers are demanding accountability for their colleagues who helped incite the Capitol attack.
Freshman Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), backed by 47 co-sponsors, is leading a resolution that aims to launch investigations for removal of House Republicans who helped spark the siege of the Capitol. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (D-Mo.) are also facing pressure to resign over their roles in provoking the takeover.