Pressley Denounces Bill Targeting Protesters, Demonstrations While Ignoring Police Reform And Accountability

police brutality and violence the sixth leading cause of death for young Black men.
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Wednesday, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) issued the following statement on police brutality, the lack of police accountability, and the criminalization of protests, during House’s passage of S.921, the Federal Officers and Employees Protection Act.

“Every year, police violence robs us of the lives of roughly 1000 people across our nation—making police brutality and violence the sixth leading cause of death for young Black men. Despite the public health crisis that is police brutality and the mass incarceration crisis that continues to destabilize families and our communities, the Senate has failed to act to advance the Justice in Policing Act and bring about long overdue reform and accountability.

“Despite this abdication of justice and accountability for our own communities here in the United States, Senate and House Leadership advanced a bill that would broaden the scope and reach of our carceral system and criminalize a broad swath of activities—including demonstrations and protests-- for individuals who have never set foot in the United States.

“Let me be abundantly clear here that I feel deeply for every family that has been robbed of a loved one. There is no hierarchy of hurt. My sincere intent is that each family, justice involved, law enforcement families, those from every walk of life, would be met with healing and closure in the face of a devastating loss of a loved one. Moreover, we should be advancing policies that center true justice – and that guarantee each member of society makes it safely home to the dinner table each night. True safety is our goal.

“The overly broad language in this bill will undoubtedly invite the prosecution of non-citizens who oppose and protest at U.S. embassies, along with refugees who interface with government officials in their attempt to flee persecution. In the past year, we have witnessed numerous examples, from Afghanistan to Haiti to England, of activities abroad that would become federal crimes if this bill becomes law.

“Today, the House of Representatives passed S. 921 by a voice vote. Had there been a roll call vote called, I would have voted no because I simply cannot support efforts that will push more people into our mass incarceration crisis, especially while our Black and brown communities continue to see justice delayed and denied. I continue to call on House and Senate leadership to act urgently to pass comprehensive police reform, including my bill, the Ending Qualified Immunity Act. There can be no justice without healing and accountability, and there can be no true accountability as long as qualified immunity is the law of the land.”

In March, Congresswoman Pressley reintroduced H.R. 1470, the Ending Qualified Immunity Act, which would eliminate this immunity for law enforcement and public officials and restore the ability for Americans to seek recourse for violations of their constitutionally protected rights. The Ending Qualified Immunity Act was originally introduced in June 2020 by Congresswoman Pressley and Congressman Justin Amash (L-MI) following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement.

In May 2021, Rep. Pressley and Rep. Cori Bush (MO-01) led a group of progressives in sending a letter to House and Senate leadership, urging them to maintain and strengthen the provision to eliminate qualified immunity as negotiations for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act continue.

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