BOSTON (CBS) — “What you see happening throughout this nation is unrest and it will persist for as long as there is unrest. On full display, what you were seeing is the pain of black folks that has been delegitimized for far too long,” Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley said Tuesday, in response to days of protests after George Floyd‘s death.
She and Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins were among a group of state leaders that marched from the African-American Meeting House on Beacon Hill to the State House. The group aimed to lay out a multi-point plan for police accountability and policies to advance racial justice on multiple levels.
Before they spoke to the media, they stood in silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds — the same amount of time Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck. His death sparked outrage across the country, including in Boston.
“Today we are going to be precise and prescriptive because the hurt and harm and the injustices that have been put on us were very precise, were very prescriptive, were very targeted,” Pressley said.
She and Rep. Ilhan Omar have introduced a resolution to the House of Representatives.
“In addition to calling on the House of Representatives to condemn all acts of police brutality racial profiling and excessive use of force. Our resolution calls for the adoption of reforms and policies at all levels of government to end these injustices, including:
- Efforts to improve oversight and independent investigations to hold individual law enforcement officers and police departments accountable
- Number two: calling on the [Department of Justice]. The DOJ which in this moment is the absence of justice and every iteration, but calling on the DOJ to reassert its statutory authority to investigate individual instances of racial profiling, or police brutality and violence and investigate and litigate individual law enforcement officers and police departments routinely violating civil rights.
- Number three: the resolution calls for supporting efforts to establish an all civilian review board with the authority to investigate incidents of police misconduct, to ensure community level oversight accountability and discipline the reaction of police officers.
- Number four: our congressional resolution calls for the adoption of sound and unbiased law enforcement policies at all levels of government that reduce the disparate impact of police brutality racial profiling and use of force on black and brown people, and other historically marginalized communities.”
“The reason why there is a racial wealth gap in Boston is because of law, discriminatory, draconian law. So if hurt and harm, have been codified in law-making, then healing and justice should be codified in law-making,” Pressley said.
She added that there will be no justice for the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, or Tony McDade, but only accountability.
“This is the tipping point,” Pressley concluded.
State Representative Russell Holmes said Tuesday’s event was “to make sure we call out the things that so many of us have been working on for so long that have been ignored, quite frankly, you’re going to hear things today that the Congresswoman, that the black and Latino Caucus, that Congressional Black Caucus, that the Hispanic Caucus have been advocating for, for many years. But no one listened. It is awful, It is awful, that it takes a video of that nature, to make it so that folks wake up, and understand something we have known in all communities. It is now the time for all colleagues to listen to black people, listen to the things that we are saying would be most appropriate as a solution. Not your ideas that you want us to hope on, not your ideas that you formulated in some role. But here are our ideas.”
Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins also spoke.
“Law enforcement is the only branch of our government, which all of our taxes pay for, that they have the right to kill, to use legal, lethal force, without any oversight. They don’t have to stop and call a hotline, they don’t have to do anything. And then it’s the D.A.’s that come in afterwards, the ones that at least have a spine and see whether that shooting was justified or reasonable. So I am not only going to let you yell at law enforcement right now because my job is just as equally as important and you have seen an epic failure of prosecutors across the country in not standing up and holding people accountable.”
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera was also with the group.
“If black and brown people can’t have life and liberty, no one should expect to have peaceful pursuit of happiness,” he said. “Remember that injustice in Minnesota threatens justice here in Boston and in Lawrence. I don’t support the violence and the vandalism, most of it was opted by people not in from our communities but I understand where it comes from.”
Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo shared the painful memory of being profiled by police as a teen. “He pulled his gun out again and pointed it at me and asked me again if I was stupid. In that moment time stopped for me,” he said.
Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins delivered a powerful message to vote. “We can march, we can scream, we can cry, we can die, but if we are not controlling the levers of power in this country, we are done,” he said.