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International Organization Finds U.S. Violating the Rights of Protestors

Allison Frankel,
Staff Attorney,
ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project
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November 12, 2012

The right to peacefully assemble, enshrined both in the U.S. Constitution and international human rights law, is an intrinsic element of the democratic fabric of the United States. Yet according to a report released Friday by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an international organization of which the U.S. is a member, America is failing to uphold this fundamental right. The report is the first comprehensive OSCE report on violation of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly that covers the U.S.

The report, based on observations of 27 assemblies, demonstrations, and counter-demonstrations in 11 countries including the U.S., conveyed concern about the use of excessive force and undue restrictions on peaceful assembly. Specifically, the OSCE criticized the use of excessive force, mass arrests, kettling, arrests of journalists, camp evictions, and permit requirements in the U.S. generally, and New York, Chicago, and Oakland specifically. The report recommended U.S. authorities “ensure the right to free assembly, including by facilitating protest camps and marches as much as possible, limiting police use of force, promptly investigating police misconduct, and not dispersing assemblies merely for lack of permits.”

The OSCE report documents many of the same First Amendment violations against Occupy protesters that ACLU affiliates in New York, Northern California, and elsewhere in the country have been exposing and challenging. The report also comes on the heels of extensive reporting on violations of the rights of protestors by civil society groups in the U.S. This week, professors and students from the law schools of NYU and Harvard presented their findings to the OSCE, and voiced support for continued OSCE efforts to monitor freedom of assembly in America.

Human rights organizations, including the ACLU, are calling upon the U.S. to heed the OSCE report’s key recommendations and ensure that all citizens are allowed to exercise their fundamental right to peacefully assemble.

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