Representative Cohen Lauds Vacated Convictions In “Friendship Nine” Case As Long Over-due

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Rep. Steve Cohen

Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, today issued the following statement regarding a South Carolina judge vacating the sentences of the “Friendship Nine,” who are a group of African-American men convicted for staging an sit-in at a Southern, whites-only lunch counter in 1961 that helped popularize the “jail, no bail” strategy of the civil rights movement.

“More than 50 years ago, the Friendship Nine were wrongfully convicted for exercising their civil rights and highlighting the injustice and inhumanity of Jim Crow. In choosing jail over paying a fine that would merely reinforce a racist policy, the Friendship Nine helped inspire a generation and strengthen the resolve of the civil rights movement.

“The decision to vacate these convictions was long overdue and is further evidence that the injustices of slavery and Jim Crow remain in the South even today. We have made strides over the last five decades, but there still remain too many lingering consequences of these inhumane laws. From racially-biased criminal justice policies to public health and education disparities and from significant economic disadvantages to restrictive voting laws that disenfranchise African-Americans and minorities, we have much work remaining to realize Dr. King’s dream. We must continue the fight to ensure that all citizens, regardless of race, receives fair treatment under the law.”

Congressman Cohen was the author of H.Res.194, the first and only official Congressional apology for slavery and Jim Crow laws.

The text of the apology, which passed the House on July 29, 2008, is available here.

As the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Congressman Cohen has broad jurisdiction over constitutional amendments, constitutional rights, Federal civil rights, ethics in government, medical malpractice and product liability, legal reform generally, and relevant oversight over those issues.


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