Two members of “the Squad” have thrown their support behind wide-ranging legislation that would address many of the demands of the massive nationwide Black Lives Matter protests that followed the death of George Floyd under Minneapolis police.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts announced the BREATHE Act, the result of a project led by the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 150 organizations. It’s been dubbed a “modern-day civil rights act” by supporters.
The bill is broken into four sections. The first calls for divesting from police agencies like the DEA and ICE, banning surveillance technology, ending civil asset forfeiture, ending life sentences and mandatory minimum sentences, closing federal prisons, and decriminalizing and retroactively expunging both state and federal drug offenses, among others.
The second section calls for incentives for states to shrink or close detention facilities, removing police from schools, abolishing police gang databases, eliminating court fees and forgiving all court debts, repealing all juvenile offenses, and creating new intervention programs that would send specialists other than police to respond to 911 calls, among others.
The third section calls for social equity in communities, including equitable funding for all schools, closing youth detention centers, developing school curricula critical of colonialism, more wraparound services for students, promoting environmental justice, providing safe access to water, creating pilot programs for universal basic income, providing access to education for undocumented immigrants, and modernizing all public schools, among others.
The fourth section calls for reparations for those incarcerated including enfranchisement to vote, creating a public financing program for campaigns powered by small dollar contributions, incentivizing states to increase voter turnout, allowing undocumented immigrants to vote in local and state elections, and holding officials and police officers accountable, among others.
On Fox News, Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana called the legislation “a serious effort to compete in the Woke Olympics” that could only be improved “with the shredder.” But University of Michigan professor and criminal justice expert Heather Ann Thompson told the Associated Press that the moment demands these changes.
“I think those programs that they’re suggesting eliminating only look radical if we really ignore the fact that there has been tremendous pressure to meaningfully reform this criminal justice system,” she said. “Every radical piece of legislation that we’ve ever passed in this country, it has passed on the heels of the kinds of grassroots protests that we saw on the streets. The will of the people indicates that if they just keep putting a Band-Aid on it, these protests are not going to go away.”
You can read the full act here.
The House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a sweeping police reform bill, last month. All 233 Democrats voted in favor of the bill, as well as three Republicans. The legislation calls for increasing accountability for law enforcement misconduct, enhancing transparency and data collection, and eliminating discriminatory policing practices.
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