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Senator Murray delivered a speech from the Senate Floor today advocating for the Justice in Policing Act, new legislation to begin addressing police brutality at the federal level

Senator Murray also emphasized her commitment to the sustained fight against systemic racism and centuries of racial oppression in America, including the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black communities and people of color

Senator Murray: “That people are rushing to the streets to make their voices heard, in the middle of a global health emergency, underscores how serious this moment in our country is and highlights the depths of the injustices baked into our systems at every level” 

Senator Murray: “[The Justice in Policing Act] is action that we can start taking now to begin ensuring justice and accountability in our laws and in law enforcement and, hopefully, help put us on a path that can begin to heal our nation’s deep wounds” 

Senator Murray: “…[A]s a voice for my state, and as someone committed to forming a “more perfect union” for everyone I intend to work for justice every day until it arrives” 

ICYMI: Senator Murray Announces Support for Justice in Policing Act; Calls for Continued Work to Stop Racial Injustice – MORE HERE  

***WATCH SENATOR MURRAY’S FULL SPEECH HERE*** 

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) today delivered a speech from the Senate floor voicing support for the Justice in Policing Act, new legislation from Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), which would begin to address police brutality across the country. The legislation, which is cosponsored by Senator Murray and was also introduced in the House, would institute a number of meaningful reforms, including:

  • putting a national ban on chokeholds and other tactics that have left Black people dead,
  • creating a national use of force standard,
  • limiting the transfer of military weaponry and equipment to police departments,
  • creating a National Registry for Police Misconduct,
  • ending qualified immunity to hold law enforcement accountable for violating Constitutional rights,  
  • making lynching a federal crime,
  • efforts to encourage more independent investigations into police misconduct, and more.

During the speech, Senator  Murray highlighted the importance of responding to recent urgent calls to address police brutality, and also emphasized her commitment to transformative solutions across a broad array of policy areas in order to end systemic racism in America—especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues disproportionally impacting Black communities and people of color.

In addition to the Justice in Policing Act, Senator Murray last week cosponsored the Police Training and Independent Review Act, which would incentivize training for law enforcement officials on fair and impartial policing, and encourage independent, impartial investigations into law enforcement officials’ use of deadly force. On Friday, May 29th, Senator Murray issued a statement calling for federal investigations into the recent killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery—all unarmed Black people—and on June 4th, Senator Murray called for an independent investigation into the killing of Manuel Ellis, an unarmed Black man killed by police in Tacoma.

Key Excepts:

“I come to the floor today because our nation has to change—because the people are demanding it and I believe each of us, especially those of us privileged enough to serve in the United States Senate, is responsible for being part of the solution.”

“[The Justice in Policing Act] is action that we can start taking now to begin ensuring justice and accountability in our laws and in law enforcement and, hopefully, help put us on a path that can begin to heal our nation’s deep wounds. Because while we need to pass legislation to address police brutality, we can’t stop there. The Justice in Policing Act is the first of many steps we must take in Congress to help reset our nation’s moral compass.”

“…[a]s a nation, we haven’t paid nearly enough attention to the profound grievances Black people have been raising for a long time. What I hear is people crying out for this country to live up to its values saying it’s time for all of us, especially elected officials, to listen, and act, by reinvesting in and supporting our communities rather than allowing law enforcement to be an unaccountable, militarized non-answer to perfectly understandable calls for better health care, or better schools, and real safety.” 

“…change in our own hearts and minds, and in our communities, is as fundamental and essential to truly overcoming racism in our country as reforming policies and systems. So instead of letting a fear of getting it wrong lead to inaction or complacency, I urge you to let it motivate you to listen, and to learn, because we all have more to do. I am personally committed to doing more.”

“As a country—let's commit to fight racism in our laws and systems. As individuals—let's commit to fight racism in ourselves and in our communities. This is the work before all of us, and as a voice for my state, and as someone committed to forming a “more perfect union” for everyone I intend to work for justice every day until it arrives.”

For full text of the speech see below and for video see HERE.

“M. President, it’s been 17 days since Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd, 90 days since police in Louisville, KY killed Breonna Taylor—who would have turned 27 just days ago—and 109 days since Ahmaud Arbery was killed by armed white residents in South Georgia.

“These are just some of the most recent examples of the senseless, repeated killings of Black people in our communities, including by police, that have led to the massive outpouring of anger and grief we see on display in streets across the country.

“But we know these protests are not only about these unjust tragedies.

“They are also about Tony McDade, Sandra Bland, Mike Brown, Atatiana Jefferson, Walter Scott, Philando Castile, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Tamir Rice—as well as Manny Ellis, Charleena Lyles, and Che Taylor from my home state of Washington, and the countless Black people and people of color—the vast majority whose names we don’t know—whose lives have been unfairly taken.

“Even more important, these protests are driven by people, including many young people, who are justifiably sick and tired of the systemic racism behind those killings that is deeply woven throughout the fabric of our democracy and our history, and rightly believe we are not moving forward nearly fast enough. 

“I know this is true in my home state of Washington, where according to data compiled by the Mapping Police Violence database, between 2013 and 2019 Black people were more than three times more likely to be killed by police.

“And it is beyond clear that the disproportionate impact of police violence on Black communities, as well as other communities of color, is not some accident and speaks to a rot that is deep in the design of our nation.

“So M. President, I come to the floor today because our nation has to change—because the people are demanding it and I believe each of us, especially those of us privileged enough to serve in the United States Senate, is responsible for being part of the solution.

“M. President, it has been more than two weeks since George Floyd’s murder—and we’re still seeing protests across the country in towns big and small, in urban and rural areas.

“More importantly—they don’t seem to be stopping.

“More and more people are getting engaged, and learning, and listening, signaling we have a real opportunity to make change in our country.

“I believe strongly that this is a problem we can start to solve today, and we have policies to do it.

“One major step we can take is by passing the legislation offered this week by Senators Harris and Booker, and I want to thank them for their moral leadership on so many challenges—but especially this week with the introduction of the Justice in Policing Act.

“Their legislation would, among other things—reform qualified immunity, that’s an antiquated judicial doctrine that has kept so many officers from being held accountable for violating Americans’ Constitutional rights.

“Ban the use of chokeholds and carotid holds, and make federal funds available only for state and local departments committed to codifying an end to these shameful tactics in law.

“Reform the use of force standard to make officers clear a higher bar before using deadly force, and require deadly force to be used only as a last resort.

“Ban the use of no-knock warrants in federal drug cases, and provide strong incentives to state and local governments to do the same.

“Strengthen transparency of policing through data, like creating a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent misconduct from being swept under the rug, and requiring the federal government to finally begin national tracking incidences of use of force.

“It would limit the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement, as well as steps to restore and build on many of the policing reform efforts initiated during the Obama Administration.

“None of these policies should be controversial in any way, for any of us here in the Senate, Democrat or Republican.

“We’ve all seen the same egregious violence, the same abuses of power from police in the communities we represent—communities whose safety should be our priority.

“It is undeniable: change is not only necessary, but long overdue.

“And there is absolutely no reason this body shouldn’t be able to take up these straightforward, vital steps and pass them immediately.

“Now M. President, I don’t think Senators Harris or Booker, or any of us cosponsoring this bill, think this is a panacea or a solution to all the longstanding problems the last few weeks have laid bare.

“But, this is action that we can start taking now to begin ensuring justice and accountability in our laws and in law enforcement and, hopefully, help put us on a path that can begin to heal our nation’s deep wounds.

“Because while we need to pass legislation to address police brutality, we can’t stop there.

“The Justice in Policing Act is the first of many steps we must take in Congress to help reset our nation’s moral compass.

“M. President, it isn’t lost on me that the massive uprising of peaceful protests against police brutality we’ve seen in recent days is happening while many of our states are still working overtime to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and keep people safe as we reopen our communities.

“Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been in contact with Black leaders and activists on the ground back home, and I’ve heard over and over again about the connection between the racism at the heart of the policing of Black communities, and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on them and their families.

“And more importantly, how traumatizing multi-layered challenges like these can be for Black people in our lives who deal with these injustices day in, and day out.

“For instance, one Black civil rights leader in Southwest Washington told me how their community has had a hard time getting vulnerable members of the Black community tested.

“She’s fighting for more resources and support and organizing car rallies to enable people to make their voices heard against police brutality, while still maintaining social distancing.

“Another Black leader in Seattle shared with me how absolutely critical it is that Black and other underserved communities have access to COVID-19 testing and health care during the on-going pandemic—that these were both important, and it isn’t an either/or proposition.

“That people are rushing to the streets to make their voices heard, in the middle of a global health emergency, underscores how serious this moment in our country is and highlights the depths of the injustices baked into our systems at every level.

“This means, during this unprecedented public health emergency, we must prioritize equity in our response, including; ensuring we’re collecting the necessary demographic data to target our efforts towards those most in need, and using this data to aggressively address disparities, and making sure critical supplies like testing kits and PPE are getting to our hardest-hit communities, which is not happening consistently and is contributing to Black and brown communities suffering disproportionately from the health and economic impacts of this virus.

“Not to mention, planning now for equitable distribution of a safe and effective vaccine.

“More broadly, the protests are a passionate call for meaningful change in our systems and institutions to combat the status quo of racism and anti-Blackness that stains our democracy.

“In order to make the right policy and resource decisions to help us change America for the better and move toward a more just and peaceful future, it is critical we all try to stand in the shoes of those demanding change and hear what they’re saying from the perspective of their life experience, and not solely of our own.

“Because, like I’ve heard recently in my conversations with Black Washingtonians, it’s not that these are new ideas or proposals, but that as a nation, we haven’t paid nearly enough attention to the profound grievances Black people have been raising for a long time. 

“What I hear is people crying out for this country to live up to its values saying it’s time for all of us, especially elected officials, to listen, and act, by reinvesting in and supporting our communities rather than allowing law enforcement to be an unaccountable, militarized non-answer to perfectly understandable calls for better health care, or better schools, and real safety.

“This means not only addressing the racism in police violence and our national COVID-19 response, but also:

“In how we address maternal mortality—which disproportionately impacts Black women and families—and access to health care more broadly for Black communities…

“In how we work to solve the climate crisis—which is a long-time demand of Black and brown communities who have suffered some of the worst impacts of growing pollution…

“In how we work to close the gender pay gap—that hits Black and Latina women hardest…

“In how we ensure equity of resources, and opportunity, and quality in our schools, and our colleges, and our universities, and much, much more.

“None of this will happen overnight, but it is important we start the work now to dismantle systemic racism if we ever want to make justice and equality realities instead of distant ideals.

“And there is also a piece of this, a big one, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention.

“I want to talk about something I, and so many people across the country, especially white people who don't live every day feeling the impacts personally, are grappling with right now, which is the part of this work that isn’t about our systems or institutions—it’s about looking inward.

“Far too often, the fear of finding out you’ve been wrong, or you’ve completely misunderstood, closes us off from honest self-reflection and growth.

“We can’t let it, because let’s be clear: change in our own hearts and minds, and in our communities, is as fundamental and essential to truly overcoming racism in our country as reforming policies and systems.

“So instead of letting a fear of getting it wrong lead to inaction or complacency, I urge you to let it motivate you to listen, and to learn, because we all have more to do. I am personally committed to doing more.

“We all need to play a role in this work, especially our nation’s leaders, which is why it’s so frustrating that next week, instead of addressing the profoundly urgent issues we’re hearing about from literally all corners of this country.

“The Senate is working toward confirming a personal friend of the Majority Leader’s to a lifetime judicial nomination—and very little else.

“I refuse to accept this, and we all should.

“I also haven’t mentioned the President of the United States yet.

“And before I do I want to make one thing really clear: he’s not the cause of all this injustice—he’s the symptom.

“And we, all of us, are the only cure.

“Instead of rising to try and unify the country, the President has shown more interest in fanning the flames of divisiveness and making dangerous, unconstitutional threats to intimidate, and to silence, and to suppress these vital protests.

“To see this President at the helm of our country in this moment is tragic—and frightening.

“But try as he might, the President cannot simply dismiss the legitimate anger on display in Seattle, or Tacoma, or Spokane, or across the country at the pervasive and crushing impact of racism on Black people and other people of color.

“For generations we’ve seen in our newspapers, on our televisions, and from our cell phones the dire and unfair and, too often, fatal impacts of systemic racism on Black lives.

“Now, our focus must be on the painstaking work to actually address the deep systemic racism in our country, which continues to create these moments of understandable despair.

“So I’m going to keep listening to the people who are at the forefront of these movements, including:

“Leaning on the work that’s already been done to help reimagine our nation’s approach to public safety…

“Working to redirect taxpayer dollars toward community resources that invest in the health, and safety, and security of Black people and others who have been historically overlooked…

“And acting, not just talking, to keep our momentum and efforts on this front progressing forward.

“I’m so glad I’ve been able to connect with leaders in Washington state on these issues, and as an elected leader I know I have to continue stepping up and amplifying those necessary voices.

“Because even though our country is at a crossroads, perhaps the most perilous one we’ve faced in recent memory, we have an opportunity for real progress right now.

“I feel it in the demands for change coming from the streets and on social media.

“I feel it in the energy, and the resilience, and the courage of civil rights leaders on the ground in Washington state.

“And I feel it in the Justice in Policing Act.

“So in closing, M. President, I hope every single senator in this chamber will join Senators Harris, and Booker, and myself in co-sponsoring this critical legislation and getting it signed and on the books as quickly as possible.

“And I challenge each of my colleagues, and all of us, to commit ourselves to a fairer, more compassionate vision for our future.

“Some will say that nothing will change, or can change—that we’re stuck to live out this historical loop of racial intolerance in perpetuity.

“But as a Seattle-based writer Ijeoma Oluo reminds us, “you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist…[a]nti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.”

“As a country—let's commit to fight racism in our laws and systems.

“As individuals—let's commit to fight racism in ourselves and in our communities.

“This is the work before all of us, and as a voice for my state, and as someone committed to forming a “more perfect union” for everyone I intend to work for justice every day until it arrives.

“M. President, I yield the floor.”

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