Protests sweeping the US over the death of African American Minnesota resident George Floyd while detained by police have witnessed a pushback from police using riot gear, and have reverberated across several European countries, including the UK, with pressure growing on ministers to suspend export of British riot gear.
The Scottish Parliament has voted to immediately suspend exports of riot gear, tear gas and rubber bullets to the United States, reported The Independent.
Lawmakers voted 52 to 0, with 11 abstentions, to pass the motion.
As he slammed the police response in the US to the ongoing protests sparked by the death in police custody of African American George Floyd, Green Party lawmaker Patrick Harvie, who sponsored the amendment, was quoted as saying:
“In the weeks since George Floyd’s brutal murder the world has been watching the appalling systematically racist police brutality and the systematically racist political establishment in the US that underpins that inequality… Those weapons of oppression are being used by a racist state and it is unacceptable for us to be exporting them, putting those weapons into the hands of people who will brutalise marginalised communities.”
The motion, urging the British government to officially ban the exports, says that parliament “stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement”.
“The Black Lives Matter movement has been inspiring and it needs to be heard right around the world: that racism exists in this country as well,” said Harvie.
The establishment of a slavery museum in Scotland “to address our historic links with the slave trade” was also called for in the motion.
“I’m delighted that today the Scottish Parliament agreed a Green amendment in an anti-racism debate calling for an establishment of a Museum of Slavery to really shine a light on this country’s grim past connections with slavery and how the inequality of that history perpetuates even now,” said the lawmaker.
Riot Gear ‘Misused’
As police have cracked down on protests sweeping the US in the wake of the death of African American George Floyd while in police detention, with security forces deploying teargas and rubber bullets against demonstrators, the UK government has been under pressure to suspend its exports of riot gear to the country.
Last week, in a letter to Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, organised by Labour MP Dawn Butler and signed by 166 MPs from the Labour party, the Conservatives, SNP, Liberal Democrats, Greens, Plaid Cymru, Sinn Fein, Alliance, and SDLP, a similar suspension was strongly called for from the government.
The government has the power to review licences due to changing situations.
The MPs insisted there was a “need to act fast” and that the government “is bound by law to freeze export of all policing and security equipment to the US where it could be misused”.
“To witness not only the murder but what can easily be described as a lynching of a black man at the hands of a police officer is an incident that has shocked the world,” said the letter.
According to cited UK government export licences, the US is one of the world’s largest buyers of UK arms. Since 2010, around £6bln worth had been licensed for export, including £18mln worth of ammunition, including so-called “rubber bullets”, smoke and pyrotechnic charges, CS gas grenades, and teargas, writes the outlet.
Sale of teargas and rubber bullets is conducted through an “open licence” system, with value of exports not made public.
Campaigners claim that the UK licensed £800mln of small arms exports to the US since 2010, with some of them possibly intended for police use and including assault rifles, sniper rifles and other guns.
The licences also covered reportedly covered some £2mln in security gear such as riot shields.
Government licensing criteria cited by the publication says exports should not be allowed in cases when there is a “clear risk that items might be used for internal repression”.
Boris Johnson weighed in on the issue on 3 June during the prime minister’s questions, when SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford pressed him over the export of riot control equipment from the UK to the US.
“I’m happy to look into any complaints but, as he knows, all exports are conducted in accordance with the consolidated guidance and the UK is possibly the most scrupulous country in that respect in the world,” said Johnson.