Colette Flanagan, Martinez Sutton, and Kerry Kennedy testify at a hearing on police brutality before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Ms. Flanagan's son, Clinton Allen, and Mr. Sutton's sister, Rekia Boyd, were killed by police.Colette Flanagan, Martinez Sutton, and Kerry Kennedy testify at a hearing on police brutality before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Ms. Flanagan's son, Clinton Allen, and Mr. Sutton's sister, Rekia Boyd, were killed by police.Colette Flanagan, Martinez Sutton, and Kerry Kennedy testify at a hearing on police brutality before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Ms. Flanagan's son, Clinton Allen, and Mr. Sutton's sister, Rekia Boyd, were killed by police.

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.”
– Robert F. Kennedy, Indianapolis, April 4, 1968.

Our work in the United States builds directly on the legacy of Robert Kennedy, who was a tireless advocate for social justice in this country, fighting on behalf of and alongside America’s racial minorities, migrant farm laborers, the poor, and the disenfranchised, often in partnership with human rights heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez.

Today, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights partners with human rights defenders across the United States who are fighting for social justice and human rights here at home.

Our project areas with these defenders have spanned the country, from the mistreatment of migrant farmworkers in New York and Immolakee, Florida, to post-Katrina recovery on the Gulf Coast. In 2015, RFK Partners for Human Rights launched a partnership with the families of victims of police brutality to hold law enforcement accountable for violence and misconduct.

Police Brutality

“It was deemed a justified shooting but they had nothing to justify it with. There was no weapon found, no weapon on any person in the group…nor was anyone in the group being confrontational. So where is the justification?”
Martinez Sutton, brother of Rekia Boyd, an unarmed young Black woman who was killed by police in Chicago in 2012

Although police violence against unarmed civilians, especially Black Americans, is certainly not a new phenomenon, police brutality has made headlines in the past few years as courageous human rights defenders from Ferguson to Chicago to New York have risen up to protest the institutional failures that have fostered a cycle of violence, discrimination, and impunity against people of color in the United States by law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights has launched a partnership with the families of victims of police brutality to hold law enforcement accountable for violence and misconduct. Since initiating the partnership, our lawyers have worked tirelessly to bring these families’ cases before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, demonstrating how police killings and impunity violate the international human rights standards to which the United States is bound.

We’ve also been engaging with activists, organizations, and law schools across the country as well as institutional actors in the U.S. federal government, the United Nations, and the Inter-American Commission to bring attention to these human rights violations and develop recommendations for police departments and governmental institutions to curb police brutality and ensure that instances of police violence are quickly and fairly adjudicated in the criminal justice system. 

Read More About Our Work:

Submission to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights examines police violence against Black Americans in the U.S.
News Release | February 17, 2016

New Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights submission to UN Working Group examines excessive use of force by US police against Black Americans
News Release | January 19, 2016

Excessive Use of Force by Police Against Black Americans: Thematic Hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Video | October 23, 2015