(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – As a Member of the House Judiciary Committee, I have joined all the other Democrats on the Committee in demanding the Department of Justice investigate the continuing murders of unarmed African-American civilians by police officers across the country. We will be conducting a series of intensive committee investigations and legislative actions to respond to this dangerous crisis rooted in systemic racism and official injustice.
In the meantime, it seems clear to me that Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed George Floyd, should be charged with second-degree murder, not a lesser charge. The whole world can see that this officer—whose pattern of violent misconduct was systematically ignored by the Minneapolis Police Department—pressed his knee, with the full weight of his body, on George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes as Floyd begged for his life. Chauvin rejected all entreaties by concerned citizen witnesses to stop. This now-fired former officer, a disgrace to all of the good and decent people in his profession, was protected by three other officers who did nothing to stop him. Gang members in the same situation as these three officers would be treated and charged as accomplices to murder, and they appeared to act like members of a gang watching one of their own execute a man. The filing of lesser charges by the Hennepin County prosecutor dramatically understates the gravity of this crime, confuses the legal issue and threatens both civil justice and civil peace.
This was not just cold-blooded murder but a brutal racial lynching conducted in broad daylight in the 21st century. It was also one of thousands of police-civilian killings we have seen over the last several years that are tearing apart the bonds of American democracy and society.
The lawlessness of this killing—in which a police officer appointed himself prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner—has provoked massive outrage in Minneapolis and across the country, and hundreds of thousands of people have come out into the streets to protest this shockingly casual execution of a citizen and similar killings of African-American citizens in their own communities.
The vast majority of the people in the streets are protesting nonviolently but in righteous anger at the injustice of police killings of subdued and unarmed civilians. I stand with them in demanding justice for George Floyd and his family and countless victims of racism like him, including Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. They are speaking courageously and bravely on behalf of the vast majority of Americans in saying: enough is enough. The everyday violent outrages committed by renegade officers and racist vigilantes against the African-American population must stop. In Congress, I am cosponsoring two pieces of legislation, which we will be introducing this week, to condemn police brutality, racial profiling, and excessive use of force and to create federal standards for law enforcement accountability.
In all of the confusion and despair, let us remember the clear teachings of Reverend Martin Luther King, Bob Moses, Rev. Daniel Berrigan, and the U.S. Civil Rights and anti-war Movements. They transformed America by calling the whole nation to challenge institutionalized racism, state violence and militarism in order to reach a higher ground. Let us remember the lesson Dr. King taught us in his book, Chaos or Community. Today, in the midst of a vicious out-of-control public health pandemic, staggering unemployment and derangement at the highest levels of government, the choice is still ours between chaos and community. Let us choose community.
From the wreckage of the Trump period we must find the strength and vision to rebuild our nation. It is time for a new Reconstruction in America. It is time to sweep away the sickening racism, the wretched violence, the rampant corruption and the lethal incompetence that have overtaken our government. It is time to rebuild on the foundations of civil justice, creative nonviolence, strong democracy, and equal rights for all.