WATKINS GLEN, NY — Declaring that “acts of police brutality, racial profiling and use of force on black and other historically marginalized communities must stop,” Democratic candidate for Congress Tracy Mitrano outlined a plan of action for stopping it in a speech in Watkins Glen Sunday. Mitrano, who seeks to represent New York’s 23rd district, was a featured speaker at Coming Together in Solidarity for Justice, an event designed to stimulate discussion about next steps in addressing racism in the United States.

“I stand with the Black Lives Matter movement because Living-While-Black long has been and stubbornly continues to be a dangerous reality in our country,” said Mitrano. “Such violence—the tool of autocrats and despots—has no place in a democracy built on equality and citizenship.” 

The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police; the recent deaths of Eric Garner, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor, also victims of police brutality; and earlier victims like Emmett Till and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., teach us about humanity, Mitrano said. “We gather here today to grieve their awful, dehumanizing deaths. And together we renew our spirit and make a steadfast pledge to do better, to expect more of ourselves, and to render this country a humane and life-affirming place.”

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Mitrano called for federal standards for training of all law enforcement officers, reinforced by Congress with sufficient funding to ensure compliance. She supports outlawing choke holds and “joy rides”—deliberately rough trips in police vehicles that have injured and killed people taken into custody. The blurring of lines between police forces and the military has to stop, Mitrano said: “Let’s demilitarize police forces and return to a notion of peace officers who work with, not against, our communities. Let us also reinforce and support for those law enforcement officers who do their job well and who want to do right by the neighborhoods and communities that they protect.”

Mitrano also called for an end to the deficiencies of the U.S. healthcare system and infrastructure, inequalities in schools, food insecurity and lack of affordable housing, all of which have a disproportional adverse effect on black and poor communities.

“We can no longer afford to ignore shocking income inequality,” she added, or the history of slavery, segregation and discrimination that have “left a legacy of disadvantage for black people in low economic communities that we must correct with investment for advancement.”

Mitrano had harsh words for President Donald Trump and his supporters in Congress. “He is a racist,” she said, flatly. “To save the soul of this country we must be crystal clear about the meaning of his presence in our lives: he is a blight on democracy, he seeks autocracy, and he is using racism to achieve it. … If empathy and compassion are what we rely on to bridge our differences, to understand one another, and upon that foundation to build a just and fair society, then he utterly fails the test. And he must be replaced." 

Those who align with Trump are part of the problem, said Mitrano, and that applies to the incumbent she’s running against, Republican Tom Reed. Reed, the honorary chair of Trump’s reelection campaign for all of New York State, “apologizes for Trump’s racism instead of condemning it,” said Mitrano. “He may show up for the photo op in a march … [but] he cannot make an anti-racist commitment. He is too afraid that if word gets back to the White House, he will get cut off from the president’s gravy train. Or be tweeted against. Or lose his political PAC money. But what Tom Reed does not understand is that the time for slick statements and expedient politics has passed. This country can no longer afford to whitewash the truth.”

Mitrano closed by urging her audience to vote to put anti-racism candidates in office.

“I recognize fully that to every voter, but especially to the black and brown people in this district, I must earn your trust,” she added. “I pledge to do that. If I don’t already know you, I want to. And even if I know you, I hope you will share your experience with me. I want to hear you, and I will listen. … I will stand with you.”

Click to view a video of Mitrano's speech