Geneva:The UN’s top human rights official called for grievances to be heard on “endemic and structural racism” at the heart of the protests in the United States.
Michelle Bachelet, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that addressing those grievances is necessary for the US to “move on from its tragic history of racism and violence.”
While calling for protesters to express their views peacefully, she also urged US leaders to unequivocally condemn racism and “reflect on what has driven people to boiling point,” the official website of the UN reported.
Bachelet’s office also cited “at least 200 reported incidents of journalists covering the protests being physically attacked, intimidated or arbitrarily arrested, despite their press credentials being clearly visible”.
The protests were triggered by George Floyd’s death. He was killed when a white police officer knelt on his neck, and video images of his killing have sparked demonstrations in hundreds of US cities against police brutality and racism.
It has been the most widespread unrest in the United States since 1968, when cities went up in flames over the slaying of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Bachelet meanwhile stressed that entrenched racial discrimination is taking a heavy health toll during the pandemic, which has killed more than 375,000 people out of nearly 6.3 million infected worldwide.
In the United States, which is the worst-hit country with over 105,000 deaths, she noted that the virus death rate for African Americans is reported to be more than double that of other racial groups.
Her statement also highlighted the situation in Britain, where government data for England and Wales shows a death rate for blacks, ethnic Pakistanis and Bangladeshis that is nearly double that of whites.
And she pointed to Brazil, where people of color in Sao Paulo are 62 percent more likely to die from the virus than whites, and in France’s heavily minority-inhabited Seine Saint-Denis suburb of Paris, which has reported higher excess mortality figures than other areas.