by Jessica Corbett, courtesy of commondreams.org –
Four congressional Democrats—all women of color—came together to introduce a House resolution “condemning all acts of police brutality, racial profiling, and the use of excessive and militarized force throughout the country.”
The resolution was spearheaded by Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Karen Bass (D-Calif.), and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). The measure comes after the recent police killing of George Floyd—which resulted in the arrest of police officer Derek Chauvin on Friday, May 29, 2020—as well as that of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky on March 13, 2020.
“For too long, black and brown bodies have been profiled, surveilled, policed, lynched, choked, brutalized, and murdered at the hands of police officers,” Pressley said in a statement. “We cannot allow these fatal injustices to go unchecked any longer. There can be no justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, or any of the human beings who have been killed by law enforcement. For in a just world, they would still be alive,” she added. “There must, however, be accountability.”
Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said, “Over the last few months, we have witnessed heightened violent acts of white supremacy, police brutality, and targeted harassment because we were simply living while black. And over and over again, offenders go unpunished, allowing this vicious cycle to continue with impunity. We cannot move forward as a nation until what has broken is fixed.”
Omar represents Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, which includes Minneapolis and some surrounding suburbs. Throughout the week she has spoken out about police killing Floyd and law enforcement’s response to the resulting protests. The congresswoman has also called for creating an independent federal agency to investigate officer-involved shootings and excessive uses of force.
“From slavery to lynching to Jim Crow, black people in this country have been brutalized and dehumanized for centuries,” Omar said Friday. “The war on drugs, mass criminalization, and increasingly militarized police forces have led to the targeting, torture, and murder of countless Americans, disproportionately black and brown.
“The murder of George Floyd in my district is not a one-off event,” she continued. “We cannot fully right these wrongs until we admit we have a problem. As the People’s House, the House of Representatives must acknowledge these historical injustices and call for a comprehensive solution. There are many steps on the path to justice, but we must begin to take them.”
The House resolution details the long history of “systemic targeting of and use of deadly and brutal force against people of color” by US law enforcement and declares that “the conduct of police officers who engage in racial profiling and excessive force, which can include shootings, brutal beatings, fatal chokings, and any other excessive treatment is a violation of the Constitution.”
In addition to acknowledging how “expanded and excessively militarized policing” has impacted people of color, people with disabilities, and “other historically marginalized communities, including LGBTQ+ individuals, immigrants, and those experiencing homelessness,” the resolution demands reforms on a national scale.
The measure calls for establishing independent all-civilian review boards to investigate police misconduct and urges the US Department of Justice to reinstitute its role in investigating individual instances of police brutality, violence, and racial profiling, and police departments that violate civil rights; and take on a role in filing briefs urging courts to reconsider decisions that permit unreasonable and excessive police practices and establish meaningful oversight of consent decrees.
Cosponsors are Democratic Reps. Joaquin Castro of Texas, Judy Chu of California, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of NY, and Massachusetts Representatives Katherine Clark, James McGovern, Joseph Kennedy, and Lori Trahan.
The resolution is also endorsed by several advocacy groups including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Color of Change, the Center for Popular Democracy, Moms Rising, Drug Policy Alliance, and the ACLU—as well as the group’s branches in Massachusetts and Minnesota.
“We signed on to this resolution because police brutality, racial profiling, and excessive use of force has come at a disproportionately high cost to communities of color,” the ACLU tweeted Friday. “The police violence and murder in the black community in America must stop immediately.”