UN chief tells protesters in US to be peaceful, urges restraint by authorities

UN chief Antonio Guterres has appealed to the protesters demanding justice for the custodial killing of African-American George Floyd to voice their grievances in a peaceful manner and called on authorities to show restraint while responding to the widespread protests held across the US.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets across the US to demonstrate against the gruesome killing of Floyd, a 46-year-old man who was pinned to the ground in Minneapolis last week by a white police officer who kneeled on his neck as he gasped for breath.

In his last moments before death, Floyd said: ‘I can’t breathe’, which the demonstrators use as a clarion call demanding action against brutality by the police.

Police have used tear gas to disperse the crowds and hundreds of people have been arrested as protests turned violent in some cities.

“The situation we’re seeing today, we’ve seen in different parts of the world before and the Secretary General’s message has been consistent one – that grievances must be heard, but they must be expressed in peaceful ways and authorities must show restraint in responding to demonstrators,” Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General Stephane Dujarric said at the daily press briefing on Monday.

He was responding to a question on the violent protests going on in the US for a week over the killing of Floyd. Dujarric said that as in any other country in the world, “diversity is a richness and not a threat” in the US.

“But the success of diverse societies, in any country, requires a massive investment in social cohesion. That means reducing inequalities, addressing possible areas of discrimination, strengthening social protection, providing opportunities for all,” he said.

He said that these efforts and investments needed to mobilise national governments. “They need to mobilise local authorities, the private sector, civil society, faith based organisations. In one word, society as a whole needs to be mobilised,” the UN official said.

On police violence amid the protests, Dujarric said such cases needed to be investigated. “We’ve always said that police forces around the world need to have adequate human rights training, and there also needs to be an investment in social and psychological support for police so they can do their job properly in terms of protecting the community,” he said.

ATTACKS ON JOURNALISTS

As journalists too came under attack during the protests over Flyod’s death, Dujarric quoted a tweet by Guterres in which the UN chief had said, “When journalists are attacked, societies are attacked. No democracy can function without press freedom, nor can any society be fair without journalists who investigate wrongdoing and speak truth to power”.

The protests have resulted in the death of at least five people, the arrest of thousands and placing of curfew in nearly 40 cities, while forcing President Donald Trump to take shelter in a White House bunker. Considered to be the worst ever civil unrest in the US in decades, the violent protests have engulfed at least 140 cities across America in the days following the death of Floyd.

Meanwhile, French Ambassador to the UN Nicolas de Riviere, President of the Security Council for the month of June, was asked during a virtual press briefing if there were any plans to raise the issue of brutality by the US police in the Security Council since Washington raises human rights issues of other nations in the 15-member UN organ.

The envoy responded by saying the mandate of the Security Council was not the same as the mandate of the UN Human Rights Council. “The mandate of the Security Council is international peace and security. It’s obvious that frequently the human rights situation has an impact on international and regional peace and security and then and only then the Security Council should take action. It doesn’t mean that the Security Council is in charge of every single issue related to human rights. It’s not,” he said.

German envoy Christoph Heusgen, President of the Security Council for the month of July, said there were no plans to raise the issue in the council.

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