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UN: Jacob Blake shooting highlights racism in US police

August 28, 2020

The force used against Blake appeared "excessive," said a UN spokesman. Robert Colville also spoke of the "lax" gun laws in the US contributing to the murders of two people who were shot dead in the ensuing protests.

USA Wisconsin Protest Jacob Blake
Image: Reuters/M. Seger

The United Nations on Friday said the shooting of African American Jacob Blake demonstrated a need to eradicate links between policing and racism in the US.

The force used against Blake, who was shot seven times in the back, appeared "excessive" and was probably "discriminatory," a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said.

Robert Colville told reporters in Geneva: "This really tragic episode reaffirms the need for urgent action to eradicate linkages between structural racism and policing."

An officer opened fire on Blake as the African American tried to enter his car during a confrontation with police in the Midwestern city of Kenosha. Authorities said police were seeking to arrest the 29-year-old and had tried to subdue him with a stun gun. 

Read more:  Jacob Blake protests reverberate through US sports

'Painful reminder'

The incident is a "painful reminder of how African-Americans continue to be exposed to differentiated and heightened risk when engaging with law enforcement bodies in the United States," Colville said. "From the images available that we've seen at this point, the police appears to use force against Jacob Blake that would seem to be excessive. And it does not appear that law enforcement officers abided by the international standard for the intentional use of lethal force with a firearm."

Colville also said it seemed "highly possible" that the violence was "discriminatory in nature." 

Cars in a small car dealership sit destroyed in a parking lot after rioting in Kenosha, WI on Aug 25, 2020.
Protests and riots in the aftermath of Blake's shooting have also caused considerable damage to propertyImage: Imago Images/ZUMA Wire/C. Juhn

Footage of the shooting has since gone viral, prompting widespread protests. Two protesters were shot to death and another wounded this week. Authorities have since arrested a 17-year-old in connection with the killings and filed intentional homicide charges against him.

"We would see this as yet another example of the insufficient and lax gun control measures in the United States," said Colville. "It should be inconceivable that you have a 17-year-old running around with an automatic rifle in a position to shoot people in this way in such a tense situation."

"In our view, the dreadful events of the past few days in Kenosha are not only recurrent but highly preventable," said Colville.

Blake is currently in hospital and may never walk again, according to his lawyer.

jsi/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)