April V. Taylor
Michael Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden will be traveling to Geneva, Switzerland to testify to the United Nations Committee Against Torture about her son’s death. Brown, an unarmed Black teenager, was killed by Officer Darren Wilson in August. Wilson has not been arrested and leaks indicate that a grand jury is not likely to return an indictment against him for killing the unarmed Brown. With little hope of receiving justice for her son from local, state or national authorities, McSpadden will be testifying about her son’s death as well as the stories of other victims of racial profiling and police violence in the hopes of gaining international support for justice. The UN Committee Against Torture exists to prevent torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment across the globe.
McSpadden will be traveling with an attorney for the family as well as local activists and human rights advocates who hope to make an international audience aware of Brown’s killing and the militarized police response to protesters who poured into the streets to demand justice for Brown. A brief filed by Brown’s family and local activists that is being promoted under the tagline “Ferguson to Geneva,” was co-authored by St. Louis University law professor Justin Hansford who points out that Brown’s death and the violent response to protesters are, “covered by article one of the convention against torture. When the government has all the guns, all the force, and when they can kill people with impunity and without fear of being found guilty of a crime, that’s a classic example of state violence. You see this in dictatorships and regimes where they do this to their own citizens and they get away with it.” Hansford feels that Brown’s killing is similar to that of Emmet Till, whose death was a pivotal impetus for the civil rights movement.
Hansford also points out how Brown’s death was reminiscent of Jim Crow lynchings stating, “The murder of Michael Brown was a fresh cut in an old wound in the sense that it played on the legacy of lynching, when black people’s bodies were on display for people as a form of intimidation.” He goes on to say that Brown’s death, “wasn’t just a violation of people’s civil rights, it was a violation of their human rights.” Local organizer Charles Wade expounds on this stating, “People are starting to understand that people of color often feel that they don’t have the same rights as humans, that their humanity isn’t being respected.”
It’s not just Brown’s family and local protestors and organizers who feel that there are human rights abuses by the police. A recent Amnesty International report clearly stated that Brown’s death and the use of rubber bullets, tear gas, and military equipment against protesters were human rights violations.
A group of activists from Chicago will also be traveling to Geneva to address the UN. The group, We Charge Genocide, has issued a report and will be urging the committee to, “recognize the Chicago Police Department’s treatment of young people of color as torture.” The group will also be demanding a response for the Chicago Police Department that addresses how it plans to end the torture as well as compensate the communities that have been affected by police violence. Regarding the impact of police violence, the report specifically states, “Behind these stories and numbers are real people – real people’s severe pain, humiliation, suffering, and death at the hands of those charged with the duty to ‘protect and serve’ Chicago.” The groups name came from a petition filed to the UN in 1951 that documented 153 racial killings and human rights abuses that were mainly committed by police.