Fighting Back: “We must reform the laws and institutions that have perpetuated inequality and injustice.”

 
 

The Weekly Democratic Party Address was delivered by Senator Doug Jones of Alabama weighing in on the need for change to achieve social justice.

(As Americans peacefully protest across our nation against racial injustice, Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) delivers this week’s Weekly Democratic Address. Senator Jones begins by connecting today’s protests to the protests in Alabama nearly 60 years ago that helped spark the Civil Rights Movement. Senator Jones closes by asking Americans to join him in listening and learning so that we can become a stronger and more just society.)

“I spoke Sunday afternoon at a rally for justice at Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham – where 57 years ago, in the shadow of the 16th Street Baptist Church, the Birmingham Police turned fire hoses and vicious dogs on peaceful demonstrators – many of them schoolchildren – who were making a stand for equal rights and importantly a stand for dignity. The scenes from Birmingham at that time – and around the world – made it clear that the inequity in our society could no longer be ignored. Sadly, the legislative changes that came from that movement have been eroded over the years in far too many ways.

“There is a clear and direct path from the shadow of the 16th Street Baptist Church where four little girls died in a bomb blast to the death of George Floyd, just a week or so ago – and centuries of injustice that preceded both. […]

“The test we all face today is not only in changing our laws. We must commit ourselves to personal and systemic change. Can we see the dignity and the humanity of those who in some way are not like us? Can we have hope for others and work for their success? We must pass this test together. And we must maintain as a sense of urgency at reforming the laws and institutions that have perpetuated inequality and injustice.”

(CSPAN link to Weekly Democratic Address: here)

Transcript: Senator Jones Delivers Weekly Democratic Address

“Hello, I’m Doug Jones, and I represent Alabama in the United States Senate.

“I am talking to you today during what is an incredibly difficult time for America.

“As a whole, the events of the past few months and days have opened old wounds and laid bare the disparities in our society, from access to health care and education to economic opportunities and equal justice under the law. The fact that we are facing so many at one time is both overwhelming and clarifying.

“I spoke Sunday afternoon at a rally for justice at Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham – where 57 years ago, in the shadow of the 16th Street Baptist Church, the Birmingham Police turned fire hoses and vicious dogs on peaceful demonstrators – many of them schoolchildren – who were making a stand for equal rights and importantly a stand for dignity. The scenes from Birmingham at that time – and around the world – made it clear that the inequity in our society could no longer be ignored. Sadly, the legislative changes that came from that movement have been eroded over the years in far too many ways.

“There is a clear and direct path from the shadow of the 16th Street Baptist Church where four little girls died in a bomb blast to the death of George Floyd, just a week or so ago – and centuries of injustice that preceded both.

“To make matters worse, the current protests are set against the backdrop of a deadly pandemic that has disproportionately taken the lives of African Americans. It has taken more of their jobs and livelihoods than others. It has demanded much of those who work in front-line jobs in our hospitals, grocery stores, and delivery trucks.

“We are painfully aware that this disparity is a multi-generational failure to achieve the ideals of America. It is only when we are all equal, that we can truly be indivisible and a nation with justice for all.

“But I do have hope. There was a marked difference between the people in Kelly Ingram Park six decades ago and the crowd I witnessed on Sunday: young and old, people of every race and every walk of life. I’ve seen this in other cities around our country, as well.

“This is very important because the test we all face today is not only in changing our laws. We must commit ourselves to personal and systemic change. Can we see the dignity and the humanity of those who in some way are not like us? Can we have hope for others and work for their success? We must pass this test together. And we must maintain as a sense of urgency at reforming the laws and institutions that have perpetuated inequality and injustice.

The question before us now is simply: where do we go from here?

“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. asked that question in his last book with the same title: Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? That’s the question every American regardless of race, religion, political party or past differences must ask themselves now. In our hearts, we know that a belief in the dignity of all people is how we begin to not to ‘get back to normal’ but to move toward a better tomorrow.

“And while I can’t legislate what’s in people’s hearts, we can all work to break down the systems that produce the discriminatory outcomes and put people’s lives at risk.

“In the Senate, there are all manner of legislative actions we can take to address police violence, from bills that would incentivize states to pass laws requiring independent investigations and prosecution of the use of deadly force by police officers, to creating fair and impartial police training.

“We also need to pass bills that I’ve been working on since I got into the Senate to help break down the structural inequalities that have led to dramatic economic and health care disparities between white and black Americans.

We need to strengthen and protect access to the ballot box, which is where so many of these local reforms will come from.

“I’ll be the first to tell you folks that I just don’t have all the answers, I wish I did, but we’re going to continue to work to find areas of common ground where we can get meaningful reforms passed. And I hope you’ll join me in continuing to listen and learn, because it’s clear that so many of us need to be doing so much more of that these days.

“I truly believe that we have an opportunity to come out of this period as a stronger and more just society – but it will take all of us, individually and collectively, doing the hard work.

“Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.”

Any bolding has been added.

~

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s weekly news conference from Thursday:

Transcript: Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference

Speaker Pelosi. Good afternoon. There’s so much going on. Thank you for accommodating our change in schedule today.

As you probably are aware, I, this afternoon, sent a letter to the President expressing concern about the increased militarization and lack of clarity that may increase chaos: ‘I am writing to request a full list of the agencies involved and clarifications of the roles and responsibilities of the troops and federal law enforcement resources operating in the city.’

Well, I prefaced it by saying, as you probably saw, there are military on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. What is it? I’ll read it to you: soldiers on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Bureau of Prisons officers in Lafayette Square. The National Park Service doing that violent action, hassling peaceful protesters the other night. States have sent in National Guard troops from other states. The FBI and other federal agencies are operating in the city.

We want a complete list. Who is in charge? What is the chain of command? And by what authority does it – do these National Guard people come in from other states? By what authority? What is the mission? What is the chain of command? Who is in charge? We want some answers to that. And I sent that on behalf of my Members.

So of course, today is a day of great sadness. They are having the first service for George Floyd. It is a national day of mourning, I see, for George Floyd, and we pray for his family and pray for healing for our country.

As we gather here, people will be – have been gathering in Minneapolis for the first service. Across the country, the American people are grieving for over 100,000 people, lives lost from COVID‑19 and, now, for the victims of a pattern of racial injustice and brutality that we saw most recently in the death – the murder actually – of George Floyd.

Again, I refer to this letter: ‘It’s alarming that in our nation’s capital… peaceful protesters are confronted with a deployment of various security officers with multiple – from multiple jurisdictions, including,’ and this is important, ‘unidentified federal law enforcement.’

Further in the letter I say: ‘To make matters worse, some officers have refused to provide information, have been deployed without identifying insignia, badges or nameplates. The practice of officers operating with full anonymity undermines accountability and ignites government distrust and suspicion and is counter to the principle of procedural justice and legitimacy during this precarious moment in our history.’

‘The Justice Department itself in the past has stated that allowing officers to work anonymously creates “mistrust and undermines accountability” and it “conveys a message to community members that, through anonymity, officers may seek to act with impunity.”

‘In recent days many former high‑level Department of Justice officials have echoed these concerns and warned that allowing federal law enforcement officers to operate without identification can fatally weaken oversight efforts and fails to send the message that abuse will [not] be tolerated.’

This is – we are in a very difficult situation. It has to be handled with care. We certainly want to support peaceful demonstrations. We all reject violence. But this militarization and this proliferation of different groups coming into the capital city, the capital city of our country, some without identification, others without justification, what is the mission? Who is in charge? What is the chain of command? We expect an answer to that.

As you know, we are on the brink of announcing an initiative led by the Congressional Black Caucus, the Chair, Karen Bass of California. We will be making that announcement on Monday.

We are working with the Senate Democrats, as well, in advancing legislation protecting equal justice and including a number of provisions ending racial profiling, ending excessive use of force, ending qualified immunity – the qualified immunity doctrine and, again, addressing the loss of trust between police departments and communities they serve. We will not relax until that is secured, that justice is secured.

What happened with George Floyd is so heartbreaking, but pivotal, it is an inflection point, it is a threshold that our country has crossed. It isn’t the first time someone has been harmed, murdered, unfairly at the hands of law enforcement, but it is a time that is about a pattern at a time when people, the high-tension wires are up because of the coronavirus and other people are dying, as well as the confinement, the economic uncertainty.

So, to address those health issues and to address the uncertainty and to address the well‑being of our country, we hope that the Senate will soon take up The Heroes Act. The Heroes Act is about protecting the lives, the livelihood and the life of our democracy in our country.

You know the three main pillars to open our economy: testing, tracing, treatment, confinement. We don’t have a vaccine and we don’t have a cure, but we do have testing, tracing, treatment and isolation. That can save lives, especially when we consider the disparity of the deaths by the coronavirus are disproportionately affecting people of color. But, if you don’t test, then you don’t know and you can’t treat and save those lives. So, that’s a major part of The Heroes Act.

It is called heroes because we are honoring our heroes: our first responders, our health care workers, food, transit, sanitation, teachers, teachers, teachers, people who make our society go, and that is by helping state and local government. Go to speaker.gov/heroesact and see what it means to a community near you, what it means to your state or to your municipality, perhaps even to your county. Speaker.gov/heroesact.

And then, the third part of that, open our economy by testing, honoring our heroes by keeping government open and, third, putting money in the pockets of the American people. So important right now.

Senator McConnell said we must take a pause. A pause? Is the virus taking a pause? Is unemployment taking a pause? Is hunger taking a pause? Is a rent check taking – the need for rent taking a pause? I don’t think so, and nor should we.

If we do not act soon, we will only worsen the fiscal impact and the economic impact on our society. Don’t take it from me, take it from the Chairman of the Fed. We really need to act to invest. This recession will worsen unless we put money in the pockets of the American people.

So no, we don’t need a pause, we need a pass of a bill in the Senate. And we have bipartisan support all over the country for those three main pillars: honor our heroes, open our economy by testing, money in the pockets of the American people.

In addition to that, we want them to agree to worker safety – safety in the workplace, support to the postal system, support for a vote-by-mail and, again, support for food stamps to feed the hungry in our country. These seem so self‑evident. And, again, we are hoping that will be soon as you see they have a change of attitude.

We are excited that they finally did pass the PPP bill that Dean Phillips, new Member of Congress from Minnesota, had put forth, a bipartisan bill that passed the Senate. I just signed it before I came over here. I would have signed it in front of you, but they told me I had to have permission from the Radio‑TV Gallery to do that.

Is that exactly what you said?

[Laughter]

So, we didn’t do that. So, now we want to move on with the – with that.

For me, today is a very sad and special day. Today, we solemnly mark 31 years since the Tiananmen Square massacre, 31 years. In 1991, I stood in Tiananmen Square, with a bipartisan group of Members of Congress, bipartisan, and we unfurled a flag reading, ‘To those who died for democracy.’

We were chased by the police. It was a question of who could run faster because they were after us with clubs and whatever else. They took some of the press film or whatever – film, I mean it’s 31 years ago – away from them. Sadly, decades later, China’s record of repression is unchanged.

I’m so proud that in a bipartisan way, Congress has long been united in strong support for human rights in China. This past year the House held Beijing accountable in a number of ways, passing the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which I signed the other day. Some of you were there – was that yesterday? It seems like a long time ago. No, Tuesday, Tuesday. The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, the Tibet Policy and Support Act and the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

We hope that, as the President executes and implements these laws, we can work together to have a strategic plan, not only us in a bipartisan way, but also – and bicameral – but also globally to stop the oppression in China.

If we refuse – I always say this, if we refuse to condemn human rights violations in China because of economic concerns, then we lose all moral authority to criticize human rights violations anyplace in the world.

So, with that, again, we are sad about George Floyd. We thank his family for the dignity and the inspiration that they have demonstrated in all of this and we pray that he rests in peace.

***

Any questions?

Press questioning followed (see transcript)

~

Pelosi Statement Marking 31 Years Since Tiananmen Square Massacre

June 3, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi released the following statement marking 31 years since the Tiananmen Square Massacre, which occurred on June 4, 1989:

“Every June 4, freedom-loving people worldwide pause to remember the courage of the students, workers and citizens who peacefully defied an oppressive Chinese regime to demand their liberties, only to be met with violence and death. The image of a lone man before the tank is seared into our collective memory as a reminder of the values for which we must always fight: freedom, justice, and human rights.

“In 1991, I stood with colleagues in Tiananmen Square and unfurled a black-and-white banner reading: ‘To those who died for democracy.’ Sadly, three decades after the Tiananmen Massacre, we see that China’s record of human rights abuse has not changed – from the brutal campaign of repression perpetrated against the Uyghurs, to the decades-long abuse faced by the Tibetan people, to Hong Kong’s ongoing struggle for the freedoms promised long ago, and to the plight of the journalists, human rights lawyers, Christians and democracy advocates unjustly imprisoned on the mainland.

“For three decades, the United States Congress on a bipartisan basis has been united in its strong support for human rights in China and for all who are oppressed by Beijing. Over the past year, the House has proudly taken action to hold Beijing accountable for its ongoing human rights abuses, passing landmark legislation that includes the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, the Tibet Policy and Support Act, and the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

“As the President* prepares to implement this critical bipartisan legislation, we urge him to join us in support of a strategic plan to confront Beijing, working together with our allies.

“During this moment of national anguish, let us remember how the Tiananmen heroes raised a Goddess of Democracy in the image of our own Statue of Liberty and quoted America’s Founders – and may those memories move us to ensure that America truly lives up to its ideals.”

Bolding added.

~

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  1 comment for “Fighting Back: “We must reform the laws and institutions that have perpetuated inequality and injustice.”

  1. JanF
    June 6, 2020 at 10:11 am

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the: May Jobs Report

    June 5, 2020

    San Francisco – Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement after the Department of Labor released its May jobs report:

    “The May jobs report shows that decisive action by Congress to support small businesses and workers can make a strong difference in our economy. But with more than 100,000 Americans tragically dead, 21 million still out of work and state and local budgets collapsing, now is the worst possible moment to take our foot off the gas.

    “The coronavirus continues to spread without the testing and tracing to contain it. Nearly 600,000 critical government employees have lost their jobs in the last month and hundreds of thousands more frontline workers are at risk of being laid off, including teachers, first responders and hospital, nursing care, sanitation, transit, food, postal and other essential workers. Families are struggling to feed their children and pay their bills – as the expiration date of the new lifelines delivered in previous coronavirus bills rapidly approaches.

    The GOP Senate must pass The Heroes Act, or else this fragile progress will collapse, and the tens of millions of Americans still desperate for help will fall deeper into despair. The President must join us to support real action to protect lives and livelihoods, rather than hide behind these jobs numbers and pretend that the job is done.”

    It turns out that the number of jobs increased but the reported drop in the unemployment rate may have been from errors made in tRump’s Labor Department. That should not surprise anyone who has been tracking this administration and the gross incompetence that is its hallmark. Even if the drop to 13% is accurate that is not anything to brag about.

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