International human rights investigators to hold Community Forum in Miami today to review police violence, racial discrimination

Miami, FL, September 21, 2015 – Today, Miami will be the first stop in a tour of five U.S. cities for a delegation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States charged with investigating into the issues of police violence and racial discrimination in the U.S.  Commissioner Rose Marie Belle-Antoine, President of the IACHR and Rapporteur on Racial Discrimination/Rights of Afro-descendants, will be leading the delegation.

While the delegation will spend the morning meeting with government officials, the afternoon will be dedicated to meeting with civil society groups.  South Florida groups have organized a Community Forum at St. Thomas School of Law, Moot Court Room at 2:30-4:30 p.m. to give the delegation the opportunity to listen to stories from community members about a range of human rights abuses that have taken place in South Florida. Through this event, the community groups and directly impacted individuals will show that human rights violations happen with shameful regularity here too in the U.S.

Among the individuals testifying will be victims of police misconduct resulting in injuries and wrongful arrests.  The delegation will also examine the case of Israel “Reefa” Hernandez, Jr., the teenager who died at the hands of the Miami Beach police in 2013, in the course of its investigation.

“This is an important opportunity for us call on the Commission to lift up stories that don’t get heard at the national level, much less the international level.” said Meena Jagannath, attorney and co-founder of the non-profit law firm Community Justice Project, Inc.  “We have to see over-policing, police brutality, and economic marginalization of the Black community as human rights abuses – we are not immune to these in the U.S.  The international community is taking a hard look at the human rights record in South Florida, and it’s time for those in power to act.”

Community groups will also talk about how racial discrimination shows up in terms of access to basic needs like education and housing. 

“I’m glad that this forum is happening here because black lives matter in Miami.  While public officials may think that nothing concerning is going on, the reality is that Black and Brown folks are constantly having their rights violated,” said Ruth Jean-Noel, lead organizer at Power U Center for Social Change. “When Black lives are under attack, it is a human rights issue.  Our simple demand is for Black and Brown people to be treated as human beings with dignity and respect.”

The delegation will move on to Orlando tomorrow September 22, where community groups and advocacy organizations are holding a similar community forum at Florida A&M University School of Law, in Room 240 at 2:30-4:30 p.m.  Earlier in the day, the delegation will also meet with officials from Sanford, where Trayvon Martin was killed in 2012.

The schedule for the rest of the week will include the three other cities, with government meetings in the morning and the following civil society meetings in the afternoon:

·      New Orleans, LA – September 23, 2015: Community Forum at Gillis Long Poverty Law Center, Room 308 at 7214 St. Charles Avenue, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law – 1:30-3:30 p.m.

·      Ferguson/St. Louis, MO – September 24, 2015: Community Forum at St. Louis University Law School in the Scott Hall Room 1122, 100 N. Tucker Blvd, 2:30-4:30 p.m.

·       St. Louis, MO – September 25, 2015: No public forum, afternoon will be reserved for individual meetings