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Justice & Equality

 

The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky were wicked, evil acts. The powerful demonstrations that have sprouted up in cities and towns across our country in peaceful protest make clear that policing in the United States must change. Justice for these victims is essential, and charges against the officers are a necessary first step, but only a first step.

Each day, Black Americans find their lives under threat by the very people and institutions meant to protect them. Millions of Black Americans are rightly angry, they are frustrated, and they are tired because of the injustices they face. For them, America is not equal.

The brutal death of Mr. Floyd and Ms. Taylor, and the deaths of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and Philando Castile, among many other Black Americans shows beyond all doubt that something is badly broken. Their deaths are several tragic examples of the violence inflicted on our Black American communities. Community policing that entails officers on the street and in the precinct house fostering constant dialogue with the citizens they serve is not enough. Systematic change is demanded to fulfill the promise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

To achieve this, Rep. Pascrell agrees that political leadership must come from the top. In a recent op-ed in the Bergen Record, he highlighted his vocal support for the need for change. The House of Representatives is  hearing these calls for justice by moving with the fierce urgency this moment demands.

Rep. Pascrell is proud to support and cosponsor a slate of these critical measures.

Justice in policing. The landmark George Floyd Justice In Policing Act (H.R. 7120) sponsored by Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) and New Jersey’s own Sen. Cory Booker represents the largest policing reforms in generations. This legislation makes crystal clear Congress’s commitment to addressing reform head-on by outlawing police brutality, yanking military weapons off our streets, and at long last, ending racial profiling. The Justice in Policing Act was approved by the House Judiciary Committee and will be voted on by the full House this week.

Ending racial profiling. Rep. Pascrell is proud to cosponsor H.R. 4339, the End Racial Profiling Act, that would at long last outlaw racial profiling by all law enforcement — at the federal, state, and local levels. Subjecting the power of the state to an individual solely because of the color of their skin is antithetical to everything our nation professes. No American should ever be stopped by the police because of their race. This change must pass Congress as soon as possible.

Stopping excessive use of force. Mr. Floyd died after an officer crushed his neck for nearly nine minutes. The footage of this act has devastated the world in its brutality. Excessive techniques like these have gone unchecked for years. Sponsored by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the Eric Garner Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act (H.R. 4408), legislation named in honor of a New York man who was killed after being subject to similar excessive force, would enact a federal ban on the use of chokeholds or any pressure to the neck by law enforcement officers.

Reversing the militarization of police forces. The images of federal soldiers patrolling our nation’s capital sent a chill up the spine and bore more than a whiff of fascism. But the truth is that for decades local police forces have been given military vehicles, weaponry, tactical gear, and other equipment that have transformed countless police forces into outfits that resemble a platoon at war. These displays terrify Americans and lead to abuses. The Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act (H.R 1714) would prevent the transfer of certain military equipment from the Department of Defense to local law enforcement.

Enacting a federal anti-lynching ban. That Congress still has not passed into law a federal ban on lynching 65 years after the murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi shows just how far we have yet to go. This year, the House passed H.R. 35, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act by an overwhelming 410-to-4 margin, demonstrating the chamber’s drive to enact reform. The bill is still being held up in McConnell’s Republican controlled Senate. Rep. Pascrell continues to highlight the importance of the legislation to shame the Senate and ratify this bill now.

These represent just a few of the watershed pieces of legislation Rep. Pascrell is strongly supporting for passage in Congress this year.

There will be fierce resistance to many of these proposals. As the co-head of Congress’s bipartisan Law Enforcement Caucus, Rep. Pascrell is a stalwart supporter of public safety that prioritizes listening, community relationships, trust, and de-escalation. He has used his position to build bridges between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Rep. Pascrell led his colleagues to urge support for embracing change that will benefit all of us — especially Black Americans.

Comprehensive reforms are of momentous importance for North Jersey. In New Jersey’s Ninth Congressional District encompassing Bergen, Hudson, and Passaic counties, non-white Americans and black Americans make up more than 40 percent and approximately 10 percent of our total district population, respectively. Their lives bear the costs of nonaction more than any of our neighbors. The time for action is now.

For over 20 years, Rep. Pascrell has been blessed to serve with one of his personal heroes, Georgia Congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis. Congressman Lewis has taught Rep. Pascrell that growing as a people takes unceasing self-reflection, and that blossoming as a nation is a constant act of regeneration. And it also requires what he calls “good trouble.”

The enormous demonstrations we have seen and continue to see across America are the very essence of democracy. They have humbled and awed the entire world. They have shown that justice long denied can withstand the collective pressure of a nation standing together for change.

Until we grapple with the malevolent racism that likely killed Mr. Floyd openly, frankly, and productively, America will never be truly equal for all of our neighbors. Congress is working to lead the lead for this positive change.

 

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