This piece was originally published in the June 2, 2020 edition of CAP Action’s daily newsletter, the Progress Report. Subscribe to the Progress Report here.
“OPEN YOUR EYES, AMERICA.”
— CNN host Don Lemon, reacting to Trump’s speech last night in which he vowed to send military troops to quell protests sparked by the death of George Floyd
Americans watched in horror last night as an ominous split-screen emerged from the nation’s capital.
Just steps from the White House, Attorney General Bill Barr looked on as military police deployed tear gas, flash bangs, and rubber bullets on peaceful protesters demanding justice for George Floyd. Meanwhile, with the sound of flash bangs and shouting in the background, Trump stepped outside for an impromptu speech in which he deemed himself an “ally of peaceful protesters,” threatened to dispatch “thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers” to quell protests, and pledged to “protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights.”
Trump’s threats to deploy the military to suppress demonstrations come at a time when police forces across the country have already become increasingly militarized — a trend that activists and experts agree must be stopped.
There’s no denying that last night was among the most dystopian moments of Trump’s presidency. As is often the case, when asked about the events of last night, a number of Senate Republicans have either defended or feigned ignorance of Trump’s actions. And to make matters worse, Barr said this afternoon that we can expect “even greater law enforcement resources and support in the [Washington, D.C.] region” tonight.
HOW DO WE FIX THIS?
The events of the last week have forced us, once again, to confront the failings of our country’s broken policing and justice systems. When Black people are dying at alarming rates and police-involved shootings happen so often we can barely keep up, things clearly need to change — fast. Here are a few of the major bills, resolutions, statements, and plans that have been offered up by activists and elected officials in the wake of George Floyd’s death:
- Senator Cory Booker released the framework of a plan he’s drafting that would hold police accountable in federal court for misconduct, create a national police misconduct database, and improve training practices.
- The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights released a letter urging congressional leaders to take “swift and decisive legislative action” in the wake of Floyd’s death. The letter, which is co-signed by a number of other organizations including the Center for American Progress, lays out a number of specific policy changes intended to “ensure that police officers live up to their oath to protect and serve.”
- Senator Brian Schatz said that he planned to introduce an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act — the must-pass military funding bill — to eliminate a federal program through which surplus military-grade equipment is shipped to local police departments for their use.
- The Center for American Progress released this proposal to expand the authority of state attorneys general to combat police misconduct prior to George Floyd’s death, but it’s worth revisiting as states look for ways to address police brutality.
- Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Rep. Ilhan Omar introduced a resolution Friday that condemns “police brutality, racial profiling and the excessive use of force” and calls for stronger federal oversight of police misconduct, the implementation of all-civilian police review boards, and adoption of policies that reduce the disparate impact of police brutality on marginalized communities.
- Senate Democrats announced today that they will introduce a resolution opposing Trump’s actions last night. The resolution condemns Trump “for ordering Federal officers to use gas and rubber bullets against the Americans who were peaceably protesting in Lafayette Square…thereby violating the constitutional rights of those peaceful protestors.”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
- After his speech last night, Trump made an unannounced visit to St. John’s Church in Washington for a photo op, where he stood outside, held up a Bible for the cameras, and left. We later learned that a directive to clear the streets for this church visit was the reason the military police took such aggressive and violent action against protesters just moments before. Faith leaders were incensed: “This was a charade,” said Bishop Mariann Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.
- National Guard troops reportedly used physical force to remove religious leaders from the church ahead of Trump’s visit while they were distributing hand sanitizer and snacks to protesters.
- Minnesota’s Department of Human Rights has filed a civil rights charge against the Minneapolis Police Department, Governor Tim Walz told reporters this afternoon. The Governor also announced that they’d be launching an investigation of the MPD’s “policies, procedures, and practices” over the last decade to determine if they had engaged in “systemic discriminatory practices towards people of color.”
- Rahul Dubey opened his Washington, D.C. home last night to 60+ protesters who were cornered and pepper-sprayed by police after the city’s curfew went into effect. Of the strangers he sheltered overnight, Dubey told WJLA he hopes his 13-year-old son “grows up to be just as amazing as they are.”
WHAT WE’RE READING (AND LISTENING TO)
- “What We Should Expect of the Police: Experts Weigh In On Recent Police Violence” by Ed Chung and Betsy Pearl (CAP)
- Listen to today’s episode of Crooked Media’s Pod Save the People podcast, where DeRay Mckesson and his 3 co-hosts discuss the ongoing protests and the death of George Floyd.
- This comprehensive Medium post by Courtney Martin with actions and resources for white people seeking to be good allies to the Black community
- “What You Need To Know About Ending Cash Bail” by Lea Hunter (CAP)
- “Attorney General William Barr Is Willing to Destroy the Rule of Law for the Trump Administration” by Maggie Jo Buchanan (CAP)
If you’re able to donate and are looking for a way to support activists on the ground fighting for a more just America, here’s one. Click here to split a donation between various bail funds to help arrested protesters get out of jail.
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