House Democrats unveil measure to condemn police brutality
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) on Friday unveiled a resolution to condemn police brutality and the excessive use of force against African Americans amid national fervor over recent high-profile deaths of unarmed black people.
The resolution, authored by Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Barbara Lee (Calif.) and CBC Chairwoman Karen Bass (Calif.) says that the House condemns “all acts of brutality” by law enforcement and calls for “the end of militarized policing practices.”
Introduction of the measure comes on the same day that a former Minneapolis police officer was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter over the death of George Floyd, who died during the course of an arrest. The officer was seen on video earlier this week kneeling on Floyd’s neck as the man said he couldn’t breathe.
The House resolution further calls on the Justice Department to “reinstitute its role in investigating individual instances of police brutality, violence, and racial profiling, and police departments that violate civil rights.” It also expresses support for “independent, all-civilian review boards” to investigate police misconduct cases.
“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. “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. There must, however, be accountability.”
Omar, whose district includes Minneapolis, added that “the murder of George Floyd in my district is not a one-off event.”
“As the People’s House, the House of Representatives must acknowledge these historical injustices and call for a comprehensive solution,” she said.
The resolution is the latest legislative effort by House Democrats to respond to the string of high-profile deaths of African Americans who were unarmed, including two at the hands of police.
Floyd’s death has been followed by days of unrest in Minneapolis, where authorities announced Friday they were charging one of the officers involved with third-degree murder and manslaughter. All four officers in the case were fired earlier this week.
In Kentucky, 26-year-old EMT Breonna Taylor was shot and killed inside her apartment in March by police who said they were executing a drug warrant. Protests erupted in Louisville on Thursday over her death, with at least seven people shot.
Those deaths followed the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed after being pursued and confronted by two white men while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood. That shooting occurred in February, but the two men arrested over his death were not taken into custody until this month.
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr calling for the Justice Department to investigate all three deaths.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) further added that his panel will be “engaging in oversight and considering legislation in the coming weeks” to address racial profiling and police brutality.
“The federal government has a critical role to play in promoting a culture of accountability for all law enforcement organizations, including at the state and local level,” Nadler said in a statement.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also pointed to legislation on Thursday from Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) that would create a new federal commission to study the status of African American men around the country as part of a larger effort by the CBC and the Judiciary Committee to make changes in response to the string of high-profile shootings.
“There are all kinds of expressions of concern,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. “But not just expressions of concern, plans to take action so that this stops.”
Violent demonstrations erupted in Minneapolis late Thursday night as protesters demanded arrests in Floyd’s death, and a city police station and businesses were set on fire. Tensions escalated further when President Trump tweeted to attack the Minneapolis mayor and warn protesters that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Twitter added a warning label to Trump’s tweet stating it violated the company’s policies by “glorifying violence.”
Trump later Friday insisted that his original “looting leads to shooting” tweet wasn’t meant to incite violence.
“Looting leads to shooting, and that’s why a man was shot and killed in Minneapolis on Wednesday night – or look at what just happened in Louisville with 7 people shot. I don’t want this to happen, and that’s what the expression put out last night means,” Trump tweeted.
“It was spoken as a fact, not as a statement. It’s very simple, nobody should have any problem with this other than the haters, and those looking to cause trouble on social media,” Trump added. “Honor the memory of George Floyd!”