WASHINGTON, DC - Following overnight protests and violence in the wake of the death of George Floyd as a result of excessive police force in Minneapolis, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) issued the following statement:
“Every single person, in Minneapolis and well beyond, who has taken to the streets in the wake of the filmed murder of George Floyd has done so because they understand that Black people are not safe. We are not safe when we go for runs, like Ahmaud Arberry. We are not safe when we are in our own homes, like Breonna Taylor. We are not safe in a world that is willing to threaten a false police report against us, because we are rarely safe in the presence of police. Over the past few years, dozens of stories have been told, dozens of videos have been watched, dozens of names have been listed, and even then, the true scope of the violence, discrimination, bias and dehumanization Black people endure daily can’t be visualized.
“We have long needed a broad and deep reckoning with what “justice” means in this country. Certainly, we need the swift arrest and indictment of the officers who killed Floyd. But, while not the solution, the anger and violence we’ve seen in these protests come from needing more than simply justice for four policemen.
“Quelling the feelings of these protestors requires police everywhere to give Black people the same legal process, the same dignity and respect, that they give to white people. It requires us to fundamentally rebuild the systems that charge and imprison Black people at higher rates, and rarely find officers at fault for deaths that seem so blatantly extrajudicial. It requires us to fix wage gaps, to deal with health disparities, and to reckon with the legacy of slavery that has functionally created a second-class citizenship for us.
“Dr. King said, more than once, that ‘a riot is the language of the unheard,’ and I truly hope that leaders at police precincts, mayors and governors offices, and in the Capitol in Washington are ready and motivated to make the kinds of changes that will ensure no one feels the need to resort to acts of violence to be heard. My prayer is that the protestors remain safe, and that any further demonstrations remain peaceful.”