Participating in the “United for Racial Justice” forum, hosted by Del. Hala Ayala (D-Prince William County) earlier today, were: Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Attorney General Mark Herring, Rep. Gerry Connolly, Sen. Jennifer McClellan, House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, Del. Lachresce Aird, Del. Don Scott, Del. Sam Rasoul, Del. Jay Jones, Del. Jeff Bourne, Del. Luke Torian, Del. Delores McQuinn, Del. Mark Sickles, Del. Elizabeth Guzman, Del. Suhas Subramanyam, Del. Betsy Carr, Del. Danica Roem, Del. Joe Lindsey, Del. Mark Levine, Del Ken Plum, and Del. Cliff Hayes, plus numerous community leaders. Here’s just a short flavor of the comments:
- Del. Ayala pointed out, “Not only do we need to show up with solutions. We [elected officials] need to show up and listen — listen to what communities need and are asking for.” She added that communities are looking for action.
- Majority Leader Herring said she is reintroducing bills that address police training, communities of color, deescalation, etc. She said she believes “our police should be protectors of the constitution and not offenders,” that “we are at a crossorads” and that today “the promise of our nation is at stake,” so we have to take action.
- Former Gov. McAuliffe said he’s optimistic we’re going to use this time to make Virginia and the country better; that we have inherent racism in our state and our country; that “people are paying attention” and “it’s time to take action, shake up the system, no more talking, let’s get in the game.” McAuliffe was asked about the Lee Monument protests, said peaceful protests are something we should be proud of and support. As for the statues, we “just need to take [them] down.” McAuliffe also said he’s concerned about a racist education system. “We need to lean in on the systemic racism we have…now is the time to act.
- Rep. Gerry Connolly said the House passed two important bills this past week – the Justice in Policing Act and statehood for the District of Columbia. According to Connolly, it’s “definitely about racism and partisanship” for many of those who oppose statehood for D.C. Connnolly added that the burden of calling out racism should NOT only be on communities of color, but that white people need to do so as well. Connolly also criticized the media for refusing to call out the Tea Party’s racism. Connolly added that police have a culture of impunity and lack of accountability…and that has to change. “It’s structural…not a few bad apples.”
- Del. Elizabeth Guzman said that we need to root out institutional racism wherever it exists, as well as police brutality. She said we need criminal justice reform, environmental justice, racism in the educational system, etc.
- Attorney General Mark Herring said “we are having a national reckoning right now” with police brutality against Black people (and the fact that communities of color are “police differently” and that police have been used to enforce racist, segregationist laws); the existence of white supremacy in this country. “This is a deep-rooted problem.” We need to make this a more fair and more just Commonwealth…there’s so much to be done. We need to rethink how we achieve our public safety goals and realign our funding accordingly. Herring said that U.S. AG Bill Barr has “completely abdicated” his responsibility to oversee local police departments, and that state AGs’ offices need to do it. He said the use of force and tear gas against peaceful demonstrators is wrong.
- State Sen. Jennifer McClellan said “our country was built on a hierarchy, with white men…at the top” the first Black people and women there to serve them. The struggle is to achieve life, liberty and justice for *all*. We make progress, then there’s a backlash. Last week, Senate Democrats rolled out their agenda for the Special Session; we can’t look at inequities in a silo, have to address them holistically. Elected officials need to hear from advocates every single day until the work is done.
I am honored that I was able to create and host such an impactful event with a diverse group of panelists. As we get closer to special session, it is important now more than ever before to listen as we take action. I look forward to continuing these conversations. pic.twitter.com/bYinuwz2sv
— Delegate Hala Ayala (@HalaAyala) June 27, 2020
Joining @HalaAyala and many other elected officials throughout the Commonwealth for her Unite for Racial Justice webinar. Community discussions such as this will continue to mend our nation and bring much needed change. pic.twitter.com/t04ooyxzhP
— Rep. Gerry Connolly (@GerryConnolly) June 27, 2020