In many countries in the Americas, people's rights to organize, protest or speak out are severely compromised, according to a new report from the CIVICUS, Charity & Security Network, the Caribbean Policy Development Centre, the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy (REDLAD), and the Rendir Cuentas initiative, Civic Space in the Americas.
The report, which draws on research submitted to the CIVICUS Monitor, notes that civic space is seriously restricted in more than one-third of countries in the Americas. Obstacles to freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association include threats to personal safety, denial of the right to protest, and surveillance and censorship. Between June 2016 and May 2017, the most serious abuses and violations included disruptions of protests through excessive force, violence against journalists (including killings) and censorship of the media, detention and criminalization of activists, and the introduction of legislative restrictions on civic space freedoms (including 19 such bills in the U.S.). Indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, women, LGBTI people, migrants and other minority groups were particularly affected.
In the U.S., which was recently placed on the Monitor's Watch List due to the rapid decline in these freedoms, various local police departments are conducting surveillance of protesters, including members of the Black Lives Matter movement. This is in addition to the repression and arbitrary arrests in 2016 of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe members and activists during protests against the Dakota access pipeline. Reports also confirmed that the Inauguration Day protests in Washington, D.C., were infiltrated by undercover police agents. The report also cites the Charity & Security Network's recent report on Financial Access for U.S. Nonprofits for evidence that two-thirds of nonprofits working internationally have experienced obstacles in banking.