UC Berkeley Human Rights Center documents police violence in US

BLM Protest
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The UC Berkeley Human Rights Center, or HRC, partnered with Amnesty International to document incidents of U.S. police violence from May 26 to June 5 and discovered uses of excessive force.

Led by Sam Dubberley, head of Amnesty’s crisis response evidence lab, researchers from the HRC and the University of Cambridge watched more than 500 videos from the internet and documented police violence, according to Diana Chavez-Varela, a UC Berkeley researcher on the project. The HRC’s lab works on open source investigations, which means it analyzes and verifies video evidence of alleged human rights violations, according to Andrea Lampros, another UC Berkeley researcher on the project.

“This lab was formed to train students to find and verify videos, photos, and social media posts that relate to human rights violations—and to document facts in support of truth and justice,” Lampros said in an email.

The videos, taken over a 10-day period, were used to provide a location of where the incidents occurred and show the type of force used by police, Chavez-Varela said.

The study found 125 instances of police violence across the country and plotted where they occurred on a U.S. map, Chavez-Varela added.

“The purpose of this project was to bring tangible evidence into the discussion surrounding Black Lives Matter, providing sprawling examples of state response to protesters,” Chavez-Varela said.

Chavez-Varela added that the researchers analyzed where the violence began and how it was perpetuated from the videos at the protests.

This investigation was a rapid response to what is happening during the Black Lives Matter protests, according to Chavez-Varela. She added that the project required immediate action

The research found that police used extreme force on peaceful protests.

“There was widespread use of tear gas and pepper spray, and peaceful protests of Black Lives Matter were met with police brutality,” Chavez-Varela said.

She added that this study was one of the most comprehensive analyses of police violence against protesters in the United States.

According to Avani Yadav, a UC Berkeley researcher on the project, the documentation of police violence was a concrete way of showing what Black Lives Matter is advocating for.

Yadav added that their research is receiving attention from other media outlets, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, which is using the information to provide evidence of unnecessary force used by the police.

“It makes sense to be able to do something from our home that is tangible and can be used for advocacy or legal reasons and for whoever wants to take the report and run with it,” Yadav said.

Although this was a rapid response project that studied a 10-day period, Lampros said there is other research at the HRC that is continuing to look into police response over the summer.

Contact Shylie Ati at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @shylieati.