Racial Justice Groups Release Joint Statement In Response to United Nations’ Condemnation of Passage of Governor DeSantis’ Anti-Protest Bill

When injustice goes unchecked by officials at home, we have no choice but to call on the international community to be a mirror — exposing the many ways the United States fails to uphold the human rights it touts so loudly abroad, especially those of the Black community. 

On April 9, 2021, before the passage of Florida’s anti-protest bill (HB1), we called on the United Nations (UN) to do that very thing. We submitted an urgent action letter to the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Clément Voule, to alert him and other UN human rights experts to the ways HB1 violates international human rights law, violates the United States Constitution, and silences the voices of those who demand justice in the face of state violence. Since Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law, similar bills have been traveling through state legislatures across the country.

In response, UN experts heeded our call to sound the alarm bells and issued a press release on May 5, 2021, in which UN Special Rapporteur Clément Voule strongly condemned HB1 and similar laws across the country. In the statement, endorsed by the members of the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent and the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur Voule stated what we knew to be true all along: laws like HB1 are targeted state retaliation against movements for racial justice, violate our Constitution, violate various international human rights treaties that the US has ratified, and stifle our movement. This statement by UN human rights experts makes clear that similar bills currently moving through state legislatures across the country are in violation of international law and the U.S. Constitution and should not be signed into law. As the right to protest suffers attacks around the world, from Myanmar to Colombia, we must do everything possible to hold on to this fundamental right.

There is a long history of the international human rights community repeatedly condemning state violence and racism in the United States. More recently, after the murder of George Floyd, E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance emphasized the need for the United States to examine how “systemic racism rooted in legacies of colonialism and transatlantic slavery” is intertwined in its system of modern law enforcement. 

HB1 represents yet another affront to the Black communities that have faced generations of exploitation, crippling debt and state violence. We call upon our elected leaders and officials to oppose any such bills and pass legislation to affirmatively protect the right to protest. We will continue to resist attempts to diminish our power and quiet our voices, and build movements that create conditions where all people can lead safe, thriving lives. 

Dream Defenders
Community Justice Project
Movement Law Lab
The Black Collective
Law for Black Lives
Movement for Black Lives