The callous brutality of the murder of George Floyd by Officer Derek Chauvin and three fellow officers of the Minneapolis Police Department and the emotional and determined responses of Mr. Floyd’s fellow Minnesotans have once again forced our eyes as a nation, and the eyes of the world to the horrific pernicious stranglehold of racism on people of color in the United States and the world, African Americans in the first place.
With his last breath Floyd protested, “I can’t breathe.” His death, follows an unbroken chain of such deaths dating back to the earliest days of our nation. Just recently, in 2015 following a domestic dispute, police shot an African-American man named Jamar Clark. Police claimed that Clark had resisted arrest and had attempted to grab an officer’s gun but bystanders claimed that he was handcuffed and on the ground when the shot was fired. In 2016, as his girl friend looked on, and filmed the entire incident, Philando Castile was fatally shot in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, by a police officer who noticed that Castile had a gun in his car. In 2017, Justine Damond was fatally shot by a police officer who was responding to her own call about a possible assault taking place behind her Minneapolis home.
In every corner of our nation the ground is stained by the blood of African Americans whose lives did not matter to their oppressors, their murderers. We here in Chicago have an equally long history and even under the leadership of a new African American mayor there is push back in the Chicago Police Department on the consent decree which followed the cold-blooded execution of Laquan McDonald by CPD Officer Jason Van Dyke. The recent shot gun murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a twenty-five-year-old African-American in Georgia when two men attempted to enact a citizen’s arrest while a third recorded a video of the incident is consistent with the tradition that some white civilians believe that they also could take Black Lives without consequences.
For African Americans there remain an everyday reality in the words of Chief Justice Taney in the 1857 Supreme Court Dred Scott decision which continue to echo down through the decades: African Americans have “No rights which the white man was bound to respect.” But the truth is, and our history documents, that African Americans have never, and will never accept second class citizenship. African Americans will never accept anything less than full equality and we will demand action and reparations to achieve that equality.
In my view nothing has more underlined the depth racist rhetoric has fallen to, and appalled our nation and the world more than the abhorrent and venomous response of President Donald Trump who chose to cold-bloodedly incite violence by tweeting: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” a phrase which was used by a Miami police chief in the1960s and roundly condemned by civil rights groups at the time. I call on President Trump to withdraw his tweet and to apologize to America.
I join with those who are demanding that there be a comprehensive investigation of all of the circumstances leading up to and including the murder of George Floyd. Minnesota Attorney General, and former Congressman, Keith Ellison would be an outstanding choice to lead such an investigation. I join in demanding the arrest and indictment for murder of all four of the officers involved in the killing George Floyd.
It is time and past time for America to come to grips with the shameful American tragedy of lynching. To that end Representative Bobby Rush and I have introduced H.R.35 – the Emmett Till Antilynching Act. This bill establishes a new criminal civil rights violation for lynching.
Specifically, a person who conspires to commit certain civil rights offenses (e.g., a hate crime act) is subject to criminal penalties. The bill passed the House in February 2020. Senator Kamala Harris introduced similar legislation, S.488 – Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2019,which passed the Senate in February 2019.
This legislation takes note of the fact that “Lynching was a pernicious and pervasive tool that was used to interfere with multiple aspects of life—including the exercise of Federally protected rights, as enumerated in section 245 of title 18, United States Code, housing rights, as enumerated in section 901 of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 3631), and the free exercise of religion, as enumerated in section 247 of title 18, United States Code.” “Interference with these rights was often effectuated by multiple offenders and groups, rather than isolated individuals.”
The bill also notes that: “Nearly 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in Congress during the first half of the 20th century.”
“Between 1890 and 1952, seven Presidents petitioned Congress to end lynching”
“Between 1920 and 1940, the House of Representatives passed three strong anti-lynching measures.”
“Protection against lynching was the minimum and most basic of Federal responsibilities, and the Senate considered but failed to enact anti-lynching legislation despite repeated requests by civil rights groups, Presidents, and the House of Representatives to do so.”
Therefore, today I am renewing my call for public hearings on H.R.35 – the Emmett Till Antilynching Act and S.488 – Justice for Victims of Lynching Act to be held in multiple states around the country and be made available for viewing on the Internet.