Police violence and racial profiling during Covid-19 need to stop: governments must adopt measures to ensure justice

Brussels, 29 May 2020 – The death of George Floyd in the United States has once again exposed racist police brutality. Recent events and data have revealed how racial profiling and police violence also target racialised communities in Europe, and have been exacerbated during Covid-19.

The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) calls for urgent measures to ensure justice for communities and hold law enforcement accountable.

The police have been given more enforcement powers as part of Covid-19 lockdown measures. This is disproportionately affecting racial and ethnic minorities, who have been subjected to discriminatory checks and fines, racial profiling, and heavy-handed police tactics and violence.

“Covid-19 lockdown measures are exacerbating what racial and ethnic minorities have been experiencing for decades at the hands of the police: discriminatory stop and search, abuse, violence and even death”, said Karen Taylor, Chair of the European Network Against Racism. “Ensuring fair and effective policing practices and justice for communities is now beyond urgent.”

Arbitrary checks with clear indications of racial profiling and a disproportionate focus on certain areas where many racialised groups live have occurred. In France for instance, official data indicate disproportionate numbers of checks and fines in working-class neighbourhoods with a high number of racial and ethnic minority residents.

There have also been several cases of police brutality against people from racialised groups in the context of Covid-19. To date, three people from racialised groups have died in interactions with the police. Adil C., a 19-year-old Belgian of Moroccan migration background died on 10 April in Brussels after he fled from police who were checking if he was respecting lockdown measures. In France, Mohamed G., 34 years old, died on 8 April in Béziers following a heavy-handed police stop for not respecting lockdown measures. Sabri, 18 years old, died in Argenteuil on 16 May in a motorbike accident involving a police van.

"People of colour are dying because of deadly police practices and excessive checks and controls, not only in the United States, but also here, in Europe”, said Karen Taylor. “There is no reason why someone should die following an interaction with the police. Their mandate is first to protect everybody in an equal way and not only to enforce justice. If we do not raise attention to this issue, the police will continue to operate with impunity. It seems that racialised bodies cannot occupy public spaces in peace. Black lives do matter!”

ENAR calls on governments to take measures, including investigations and disciplinary actions, to combat discriminatory police practices in enforcing lockdown measures, and to publicly condemn incidents, in particular where violence is involved. Accessible, effective and independent complaint mechanisms should be available. In addition, authorities should collect and publish data disaggregated by neighbourhood and by ethnicity on checks, fines and prosecutions to enforce lockdown measures.

Beyond the Covid-19 crisis, EU member state governments must adopt measures to combat and prevent racism in law enforcement. This includes prohibiting racial profiling, adopting more severe sanctions in cases of police violence and abuse, and increasing racial diversity and trainings within the police force. A first step in this direction would be to order an independent public review of law enforcement to identify policies and practices that lead to institutional racism within the police, as was done for instance in the United Kingdom with the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.

For more information, contact:
Georgina Siklossy, ENAR Senior Communication and Press Officer
Mobile: +32 (0)473 490 531 - Email: georgina@enar-eu.org - Web: www.enar-eu.org

Notes to editors:
1. ENAR’s interactive map on the impact of Covid_19 on racialized communities includes cases of racial profiling and police violence: https://www.enar-eu.org/COVID-19-impact-on-racialised-communities-interactive-EU-wide-map. All ENAR responses relating to Covid-19’s impact on racialised communities are available here: https://www.enar-eu.org/Covid-19-and-racialised-communities-1755
2. The European Network Against Racism (ENAR aisbl) is the only pan-European network combining racial equality advocacy with building a strong network of anti-racist organisations across Europe. We ensure that laws and policies address racism and reflect the experiences of racialised people. We provide a unique space for organisations to connect and exchange strategies on how to combat racism and support our communities.

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