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Rep. Lewis Supports the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

June 25, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) submitted the following Floor Statement in support of H.R. 7120, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, that passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 236 to 181 on June 25.

Mr. Lewis:  Madam Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 7120, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. 

For far too long, equal justice and protection under the law have been deferred dreams for Black people and communities of color across our country.  As we consider this bill, people throughout Metro Atlanta and throughout my home state of Georgia are gripped by pain and anguish over the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Jordan Davis, who was the beloved son of our colleague Congresswoman Lucy McBath, and countless others.  The pain in the depths of our souls is constant and all consuming.  It is the seemingly endless nightmare from which we cannot awake.  

Today, young people are taking up the mantle in a movement that I know all too well.  All over the world, communities are once again joining the call for racial equity and equality.  While their feet march towards justice, their pain, their frustration, and petitions cannot – must not – be ignored.  The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act provides us with an opportunity to practice what we preach.  While we use our speech to advance American ideals such as freedom, liberty, and justice for all, we must use our hands to implement these values.  H.R. 7121 puts us on the right path.

Many may seek to mischaracterize this legislation.  Some will ignore the opportunities that this bill presents to improve our communities.  For example, I greatly appreciate that the authors included my proposal, the Law Enforcement Inclusion Act, which permits Federal grant funds to be used to recruit and train officers from the neighborhoods they are charged to protect and serve. H.R. 7121 also provides law enforcement with the help and training they need to address mental health, drug use, and other complex societal issues.   These proposals are partial solutions to the historic disconnect and distrust between communities of color and law enforcement.  

Others may argue that the bill does not go far enough.  This legislation addresses one Federal part of a complicated puzzle of entrenched, systematic bias and inequality, and we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  Going forward, we must demilitarize law enforcement and establish empathy in our justice system.  Make no mistake – much more is needed from cities, counties, State, and Federal authorities in every corner of our country.  Our work is cut out for us, and our mandate, from those whom we were elected to represent and serve, is clear.  

Madam Speaker, a democracy cannot thrive where power remains unchecked and justice is reserved for a select few.  Ignoring these cries and failing to respond to this movement is simply not an option.  For peace cannot exist where justice is not served.  I urge each and everyone of our colleagues to support this legislation.