Rush Asks U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to Not Roll Back Citizen Protections Against Police Killings and Misconduct
WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) is expected to send a formal letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking him to rescind his memorandum to Justice Department officials ordering a review of consent decrees with local law enforcement agencies, including Chicago. The move indicates citizens protections against police brutality, misconduct, civil rights violations and fatal shootings may be in jeopardy.
Yesterday evening, Rush offered impassioned remarks on the House floor denouncing Sessions’ effort as he evoked the names of Chicago police shooting victims Rekia Boyd and Laquan McDonald, along with others killed by law enforcement in disturbing cases around the country. His floor statement also commemorated the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was murdered April 4, 1968 while supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis, TN.
Rush said, “I … demand that Attorney General Sessions retreat from his position, that he stop this memorandum from circulating in the department, and that he see the light of day that many innocent American citizens are being killed because of the wayward actions of those police officers who think that they are above the law. They can’t just continue to kill wantonly and think that they are above the American law and the American Constitution.”
The full text of Congressman Rush’s remarks (as reported in the Congressional Record) and a copy of his letter follow:
“Mr. Speaker, today marks the 49th anniversary of one of the darkest days in the history of this Nation: the day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., America’s drum major for justice, was assassinated.
“Dr. King was murdered while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. He was there to advocate for the rights of Black sanitation workers who were fighting for their dignity: for equal pay, for equal treatment, and for racial justice in the American workplace.
“In one of the dimmest hours in our history, a voice of reason, a voice of mercy, a voice of compassion, a voice for justice, a voice of the beloved community was silenced. Yet, Mr. Speaker, his work to hold the United States to its constitutional promises that are rooted in the very fabric of our Declaration of Independence remains largely incomplete.
“As you know, Mr. Speaker, America remains a divided nation, even more so now. We are tremendously disconnected from the ideals set forth by Dr. King’s monumental “I Have a Dream” speech. Today, we still live in two Americas: one white and privileged, another filled with people of color, the poor, the disabled, and those lost in the margins, where people of color — Black and Brown — continue to be judged by the color of their skin rather than the content of their character.
“In the year 2017, Mr. Speaker, we find the names of countless men and women who have lost their lives at the hands of too many law enforcement officials and too many police departments all across this country. Those individuals, Mr. Speaker, are now etched in the social justice history of this Nation because they were first judged by the color of their skin and not by the content of their character.
“The list is far-reaching, Mr. Speaker. I am speaking of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Laquan McDonald, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Rekia Boyd, Tanisha Anderson, Yvette Smith, Shereese Francis, and, lastly, 4-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones and so many, many others. I could go on and on and on, but the names of the men, women, and children victimized by errant and wayward police departments all across this Nation would keep us here for days, even months, if we were to recite them all.
“These stalwart young citizens are joined also by the many martyrs who lost their lives in the struggle for American justice, just like Dr. King: Viola Liuzzo; Emmett Till; Jimmie Lee Jackson; Medgar Evers; Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner; the four little girls in Birmingham, Alabama; Fred Hampton; and many, many others who gave their lives during the fifties and sixties.
“In my hometown of Chicago, Mr. Speaker, the killing of Laquan McDonald rocked our city and the Nation by pulling the scab off a festering wound of police relations and the Black community.
“McDonald’s death by 16 shots from a single police weapon fired by a police officer led to multiple investigations of previous police-involved shootings and also sparked the investigation by the United States Department of Justice under then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. That investigation concluded that the Chicago Police Department officers engage “in a pattern or practice of using force, including deadly force,” that is a unreasonable. This report also found the Chicago Police Department has failed to hold officers accountable when they use force contrary to Department policy or otherwise commit misconduct.
“To put it bluntly, Mr. Speaker, the Department of Justice found and reported that the Chicago Police Department engages in force in violation of the United States Constitution.
“Mr. Speaker, I am here today because I am just beside myself. I am angry. I am so fed up, Mr. Speaker, because I learned recently that Attorney General Jefferson Sessions has issued a memorandum ordering officials at the Justice Department to review police reform consent agreements all across the country, including the agreement that is being negotiated with the City of Chicago.
“Mr. Speaker, our Nation has fallen so very, very far. Dr. King’s dream has not been realized in this Nation. The day before his assassination — this Attorney General has retreated so very, very far from the high ideals of American justice.
“It is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that police agencies — not all police officers, not all agencies, not all departments — but there are too many police departments, too many law enforcement officials, too many police officers who have wantonly killed innocent young men of color in this Nation, and it did not just begin in this year. It has been going on for decades. We are now at a point where some departments have been placed under a consent decree. The U.S. Attorney is now trying to retreat from that pattern.
“I am here, Mr. Speaker, to ask — to demand — that Attorney General Sessions retreat from his position, that he stop this memorandum from circulating in the department, and that he see the light of day that many innocent American citizens are being killed because of the wayward actions of those police officers who think that they are above the law. They can’t just continue to kill wantonly and think that they are above the American law and the American Constitution.”