Alliance for Justice (AFJ) joins people and communities across the country and throughout the world in our outrage against and condemnation of the senseless murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. We mourn his death, the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and Rayshard Brooks, and the deaths of other individuals going back decades, including those known only to their families, friends, and communities. These tragic deaths once again reinforce the urgency of the fight against systemic racism and the longstanding oppression of Black people in the United States. A mass movement demanding the recognition that Black lives matter has made clear that change is imperative, and that the institutional racism embedded in our justice system will no longer be tolerated.
AFJ recognizes that mourning is not enough. All people must stand against racism in all of its manifestations, including discriminatory policing that devalues Black lives and undermines the strength of our democracy. Alliance for Justice joins the voices of Black people and all people of color in our communities, who have for years borne the inequity in our society and fought for equal justice under law, in demanding concrete action.
We call on:
- Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to acknowledge that in our democracy, the government derives its authority from the people, and the right of the people to protest their government is enshrined in the First Amendment. Accordingly, the use of militarized equipment and tactics to suppress public protests is contradictory to their obligation to protect rights established by the Constitution and laws of the United States and must be both condemned and prohibited.
- Congress to hold Attorney General William Barr accountable for deploying military force and violating the critical rights and legal protections of the protestors in Lafayette Park, and for his persistent erosion of civil rights during his tenure. We call for his immediate resignation.
- Congress to pass meaningful legislation to address and dismantle the mechanisms and tools of systemic racism in this country, including, but not limited to, overcriminalization and mass incarceration, the school-to-prison pipeline, police brutality and harassment, and militarized police departments that see people as enemies as opposed to individuals with rights that must be honored.
- City and state leaders to reallocate police budgets and reinvest these and additional resources in communities of color for high-quality education, social services, medical and mental health care, employment opportunities, and housing, so police can focus on crime prevention, as opposed to tackling societal problems beyond their training and scope. We also urge increased investments in diversion programs and policing methods that are shown to dramatically reduce incarceration rates.
- Congress to build transparency and accountability into our criminal justice system by passing legislation mandating the collection and publication of data by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, and by linking law enforcement participation in the Department of Justice’s Byrne Justice Assistance Grants and other grant programs to the collection, tracking, and publishing of data consistent with data sets recommended by the Police Data Initiative (PDI) including: use of force incidents, arrests and citations, pedestrian and vehicle stops, and citizen complaints. Such data is necessary to study crime trends and develop necessary reforms that enhance public safety and improve the criminal justice system.
- Congress and the president to establish a federal standard that reserves the use of force (including the use of firearms) only when necessary and as a last resort, and to immediately prohibit egregious forms of force, including chokeholds, neck restraints, or any other control technique that constricts an individual’s airway or throat.
- Congress to enact changes in federal law that increases the ability to hold law enforcement accountable for the deprivation of civil rights and civil liberties, including the establishment of a national registry of police misconduct and the elimination of qualified immunity and changes to standards for criminal liability.
- National, state, and local leaders to take concerted action to address gun violence at the hands of police, which disproportionately affects communities of color, and take other steps and measures that reduce officer-involved killings.
- Congress to grant the residents of the District of Columbia, a majority of whom are people of color, equal representation by making Washington, D.C. a state; the occupation of Washington, D.C. by federal police and out-of-state National Guard troops, which did not occur elsewhere, was just the latest example of the disenfranchisement of over 700,000 people.
- State and local leaders to review all legislation and policies that undermine public safety by limiting the types of disciplinary actions available to address police misconduct. Moreover, cities and municipalities should renegotiate all union contracts that limit accountability for police misconduct by prohibiting the public release of information concerning disciplinary actions, criminal convictions, and incidents of domestic violence involving police officers.
- Congress to stop confirming judges with a history of racist rulings, comments, and contempt for Black communities.
At the same time, Alliance for Justice, and most notably our Bolder Advocacy team, pledges to deepen our work with nonprofits and service organizations serving those communities impacted by the justice system to advocate for urgently and long-needed structural changes, to ensure that organizations know when and how they can register voters, educate candidates and the public, support measures, and advocate around key issues.
Alliance for Justice is unwavering in our commitment to fight for a justice system that is truly committed to “Equal Justice Under the Law.” We will continue to advocate against confirmation of federal judges who demonstrate contempt for civil rights and critical legal protections. We will also work to ensure the next president nominates judges who are fair-minded and unbiased, who are committed to the principle of equal justice under the law, and whose backgrounds speak to the full breadth of the American experience.
AFJ is honored to stand with our members, allies, and partners in holding policymakers and ourselves accountable. We are humbled by the organizing and activism of nonprofits, unions, and people around the country who have never before joined a protest or rally but have taken to the streets to make their voices heard. And we are hopeful that with all the various voices urging change, our country moves beyond “thoughts and prayers” to concerted and lasting action.