By Payton Saso
On Friday, August 28, 2020, tens of thousands of Americans from all racial, religious and geographic backgrounds gathered in Washington, D.C. on the 57th anniversary of the historic March on Washington to recommit themselves to the fight for justice; a fight that calls for the eradication of systemic racism, police reform and full and open access to the ballot box in November’s presidential election and beyond.
Others joined virtually from cities and states across the world to show their solidarity and to call for longstanding change. You can watch the complete coverage here on C-Span.
The day was empowering. Reverend Al Sharpton issued a clarion call for the next steps. Between now and November, National Action Network will organize voting education brigades and train poll workers to work the polls on Election Day. Our vote will not be suppressed.
According to CBS News, “Sharpton first announced plans for the march during a memorial service for George Floyd, the 46-year-old father who died at the hands of police in Minneapolis in May.” After the unjust killing of Floyd at the hands of police, cases of police brutality against the black community gained media attention, sparking protests across the world.
Many of those families who had been dismantled because of this violence epidemic had the opportunity to speak at this year’s march, coined the “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” Commitment March on Washington. Philonise Floyd, George Floyds brother, and Tamika Miller, mother of Broenna Taylor who was killed in her home by police, both took the podium to speak to the crowd. NPR reported that Floyd told the crowd, “My brother, George, he’s looking down right now. He’s thankful for everything that everybody is doing right now. Our leaders, they need to follow us while we’re marching to enact laws to protect us.”
The March also hoped to bring attention to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. According to the New York Times the bill would, “overhaul law enforcement training and conduct rules to try to limit police misconduct and racial bias.” Which comes after months of protest demanding the defunding of police departments and more education for those pursuing a career in law enforcement.
We will work tireless to push for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020, named in honor of our beloved Congressman who recently passed away after a heroic battle with cancer. You can read more about these proposed pieces of legislation below.
More importantly, if you are not registered to vote, please do so today. Most states are offering mail-in and early voting. The 2020 presidential election may be the most significant election of our lifetime. Key issues that impact the civil rights community will be on the ballot. Additionally, you will want to make your voice known in your local elections, particularly on issues relating to education.
• Click here to find out deadlines for registering to vote.
• Join National Action Network today to stay engaged
• Volunteer to be a poll worker
• Call your Senators and urge them to support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020.
Organizers originally estimated that there would be 100,000 protestors, according to the Washington Post; however, following a permit from the National Park Service that number was decreased to an allowed 50,000.. Organizers urged protesters to abide by COVID regulations by keeping social distance, causing some to step out into the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting pool in efforts to keep a six-foot distance.
Even with this cut, the immense power of the crowd was still felt. Protestors filled the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park holding signs painted with the faces of those who have been murder by police, calls voter registration and the dauntless reminder of the 8 minutes and 46 second George Floyd was pinned at the neck by an officer.
Martin Luther King III, King Jr’s son, spoke at the rally on the 57th anniversary of his father’s historical speech. CNN reported King III said, “If you’re looking for a savior, get up and find a mirror. We must be (our own) hero.” He reminded the crowd that quoting his father who died for this movement was not enough. King III stressed the importance of this generation of protestors to continue their activism and to vote in this upcoming election.
2020 has been a historical year engulfed by the flames of a pandemic and police brutality which both disproportionately affect black Americans. This years march served as a reminder that 57 years later, King’s dream has a long way to go and the fight for racial equality is still emanating through out America.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is the first-ever bold, comprehensive approach to hold police accountable, end racial profiling, change the culture of law enforcement, empower our communities, and build trust between law enforcement and our communities by addressing systemic racism and bias to help save lives. This bill addresses a wide range of policies and issues regarding policing practices and law enforcement accountability. It includes measures to increase accountability for law enforcement misconduct, to enhance transparency and data collection, and to eliminate discriminatory policing practices. The bill facilitates federal enforcement of constitutional violations (e.g., excessive use of force) by state and local law enforcement. Among other things, it does the following:
• lowers the criminal intent standard—from willful to knowing or reckless—to convict a law enforcement officer for misconduct in a federal prosecution,
• limits qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil action against a law enforcement officer or state correctional officer, and
• authorizes the Department of Justice to issue subpoenas in investigations of police departments for a pattern or practice of discrimination.
The bill also creates a national registry—the National Police Misconduct Registry—to compile data on complaints and records of police misconduct. It establishes a framework to prohibit racial profiling at the federal, state, and local levels. The bill establishes new requirements for law enforcement officers and agencies, including to report data on use-of-force incidents, to obtain training on implicit bias and racial profiling, and to wear body cameras.
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act
This bill establishes new criteria for determining which states and political subdivisions must obtain preclearance before changes to voting practices in these areas may take effect. (Preclearance is the process of receiving preapproval from the Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia before making legal changes that would affect voting rights.)
A state and all of its political subdivisions shall be subject to preclearance of voting practice changes for a 10-year period if (1) 15 or more voting rights violations occurred in the state during the previous 25 years; or (2) 10 or more violations occurred during the previous 25 years, at least one of which was committed by the state itself. A political subdivision as a separate unit shall also be subject to preclearance for a 10-year period if three or more voting rights violations occurred there during the previous 25 years.
A state or political subdivision that obtains a declaratory judgment that it has not used a voting practice to deny or abridge the right to vote shall be exempt from preclearance. All jurisdictions must preclear changes to requirements for documentation to vote that make the requirements more stringent than federal requirements for voters who register by mail or state law. The bill specifies practices jurisdictions meeting certain thresholds regarding racial minority groups, language minority groups, or minority groups on Indian land, must preclear before implementing. These practices include changes to methods of election, changes to jurisdiction boundaries, redistricting, changes to voting locations and opportunities, and changes to voter registration list maintenance.
The bill expands the circumstances under which (1) a court may retain the authority to preclear voting changes made by a state or political subdivision, or (2) the Department of Justice may assign election observers. States and political subdivisions must notify the public of changes to voting practices.
The bill revises the circumstances under which a court must grant preliminary injunctive relief in a challenge to voting practices.