PHILADELPHIA — Following the police violence against those demonstrating for Black and brown lives and against police brutality in May and June of 2020, the ACLU of Pennsylvania partnered with Drexel University’s Stern Community Lawyering Clinic at the Kline School of Law to send a submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council regarding the Philadelphia Police Department’s use of excessive force and racially targeted response to these protests. The submission requested the UN Special Rapporteurs investigate violations of international law by the Philadelphia Police Department. Last week, the UN Special Rapporteurs issued an official statement condemning the abuses documented in the submission, and today they publicly released their official letter to the city of Philadelphia.

The following statement can be attributed to Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, in response to the Special Rapporteur’s announcement:

“The horrific scenes of police violence we witnessed in Philadelphia last spring are not an aberration. Indeed, we saw similar scenes play out across the commonwealth and across the country as peaceful demonstrators marched for Black lives, only to be met with police brutality.

“The UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteurs’ statement confirms our allegations that the Philadelphia Police Department violated human rights conventions and norms, protected by the United States, including the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. It also affirms that the PPD violated international standards regarding police use of force in their brutal crackdown on protesters demonstrating for racial equity, many of whom were Black and brown.  

“We are encouraged by the UN’s investigation and will continue to work to divest from current police budgets and redirect that money into community programs; to prohibit police from responding to non-serious offenses like traffic stops or school disciplinary incidents; and to end the militarization of police. Not just in Philadelphia, but in every police department across Pennsylvania.” 

Rachel Lopez, director of the Stern Community Lawyering Clinic and a professor at the Kline Law applauded the UN Rapporteurs’ efforts, saying “the UN’s investigation of the human rights violations documented in our complaint should be a wake-up call for Philadelphia. Of all of the cities in the U.S. where police brutality occurred after George Floyd’s murder, they chose to open an investigation here. This signals how grave the violent attacks by police last summer were and also demonstrates how the legacy of discriminatory policing is not something of the past, but continues to plague our city of brotherly love.”

You can find a copy of the appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Council here; a copy of the UN Rapporteurs’ statement here; and the letter to Philadelphia here.