Press release

United States: Freedom House Condemns Excessive Use of Force and Military Interventions in Response to Protests

Disturbing Departure from Democratic Values Must Be Reversed

In response to moves by President Trump and some other leaders to quash protests with military-style tactics, Freedom House issued the following statement:

Protesters’ demands for justice and protection from abuse are legitimate, and their right to assemble peacefully should not be curtailed,” said Mike Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “The alarming escalation and militarization of the law enforcement response to many demonstrations is antithetical to our nation’s long-standing values. The excessive force used to stop or disperse protests in numerous cities across the United States is deeply disturbing.”

“We are seriously concerned that the administration has erected 10-foot-high fences around the White House and Lafayette Park, and that law enforcement officials continue to expand the perimeter,” Abramowitz continued. “The freedom for citizens to gather in front of the White House to make their voices heard has been a hallmark of our democracy for centuries and should be maintained.”

“The deployment of heavily armed police in tactical gear, with no names, badge numbers, or insignia, is highly problematic. Law enforcement officers and agencies must be accountable to the citizens they serve. The administration is allowing them to operate in anonymity and with impunity, offering tacit encouragement for abuses against lawful protesters.”

“Freedom of the press, which is enshrined in our constitution, is also being threatened by this militarization. Journalists are being jailed and harassed by police for reporting about the protests—a gravely dangerous situation.”

“The militarization of law enforcement is a standard tactic of authoritarians around the world. In recent years we’ve seen regimes in countries including Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and Pakistan use military forces and tactics to silence the voices of legitimate dissent.”

“Over the past few days, experienced leaders like former defense secretary and retired general Jim Mattis and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen have taken the extraordinary step of speaking out against the misuse of the military and accused the president of ordering US troops to violate the constitutional rights of American citizens. We should take their warnings seriously and reverse this shocking departure from our democratic principles.”