Dear Neighbors & Friends,
The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25th by a police officer was painful and tragic because it is far too commonplace. We have to do our part to speak out against and break down structural racism and to end police brutality against black people. George Floyd was the latest victim of color who has died at the hands of police, including Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner,Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, and Sandra Bland.
Last Friday night, I was at the Barclays Center to stand in solidarity with the protesters who were calling an end to police violence and systemic racism and calling for justice for George Floyd and the many before him. When I was there, it was peaceful, and I am very disheartened by the police escalation that happened after I left, including the pepper-spraying of Senator Zellnor Myrie and Assemblywoman Diana Richardson who were there to express solidarity and help keep the peace. Senator Myrie was also handcuffed. Still, there were other incidents of police violence against protestors who were simply exercising their first amendment rights to assemble and speak. Governor Cuomo appointed NYS Attorney General Letitia James to conduct an independent investigation of police conduct. People are concerned about the aggressive actions that ensued not only against the protestors, but to property and the police on duty we must keep the focus where it rightly belongs on George Floyds murder, on dismantling systemic racism and ending police brutality against black people.
The Assembly convened conference today to discuss the recent events, and we will go back into session next week. Though it is difficult to feel anything but despair right now, there is always hope and there are some concrete things we can do. I was an early co-sponsor to repeal New York State's police secrecy law, Section 50-a, which hides police misconduct and abuse records from the public and allows repeat offenders to stay on the job. I also cosponsor several bills which have been endorsed by the Legal Aid Society and others as major components of police reform including bills that ensure a fair investigation when there is a death as a result of interaction with the police, that ensure that police departments report demographic and geographic data on their enforcement activities, and more (A5472A, A2176, A03462, A6982A, A1601A, A2513). We also conducted a legislative hearing two weeks ago on the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color. Compelling testimony detailed ways in which the pandemic has laid bare great injustice and inequity, particularly in our health care and economic systems, and how to address these issues.
As we mark the beginning of Pride month, it is also an important time to reflect on the Stonewall Riots and the change they propelled forward for our LGBTQ community, and to highlight the violence that has long been perpetrated on gay people of color and transgender people.
Finally, I am reminded of then-attorney Ruth Bader Ginsbergs argument in Frontiero v. Richardson before the US Supreme Court when she was asked about why women should get special favors and be treated equally to men, in essence why werent women happy with their lot as mothers and homemakers? She responded by quoting abolitionist Sarah Grimké, I ask no favor for my sex; all I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks. That one sentence sums it all up.
Last week we were confronted with her reference in very literal terms when a white police officer held down a black man, George Floyd, with his knee to Floyds neck, snuffing out his life. Floyd was asking no special favor and was at most suspected of passing a counterfeit bill and yet he was wrestled to the ground and died with a knee to his neck.
And so, people are marching because we all know this was so wrong. As is so often the case, we find hope and leadership in the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: There is no sound more powerful than the marching feet of a determined people. And so, we march.
My office is here to serve you remotely. We are frequently checking our emails (email@example.com) and voicemails (718-246-4889).
Jo Anne Simon
- Support Black-Owned Businesses in Brooklyn
- If you have information about Friday nights protests, contact AG James at Complaints@ag.ny.gov
- Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez has a Law Enforcement Accountability Bureau. Submit videos and other evidence of alleged police officer misconduct to TIPS@brooklynda.org
- Report police misconduct to the Civilian Complaint Review Board at 1-800-341-CCRB or http://nyc.gov/ccrbcomplaint