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Pierrette “Petee” Talley , Convener Ohio Unity Coalition

GEORGE FLOYD was murdered by the Minneapolis Police Department. A young 17-year old black girl, who watched the horrific crime through the lens of her iPhone video, recorded his death for the entire world to see. You could conclude that the use of the mobile phone video camera of civilians has done more to bring about disciplinary action of bad police officers than all the internal affairs investigators in the history of policing.

Seeing the self-righteous, complacent look on the face of the officer committing the heinous act by pressing his knee even deeper into George Floyd’s neck as he called out, “I can’t breathe”; we could hardly believe what we were witnessing as we gasped, clutched our hearts and held our breath in disbelief.

June 6 & 7, 2020 UAW Local 1005 Parma, OH; Toledo, OH Faith protest/rally

Now we have witnessed similar cases of horrid police use of force on black unarmed men and women that resulted in death, but this looked different; seeing both the face of the victim and the murderer in the same video frame. And it certainly felt different and tugged at the heartstrings of every mother, when he called out to his “Momma”.

The killing of black men and women is as much a part of history as the nation’s founding; as are the ensuing protests that often accompany the demand for justice. But this time, it seems different.

Rally/protest June 6 at UAW Local 1005 Parma, OH; Faith Rally June 10 Toledo, OH

Across our great state of Ohio, blacks and whites are declaring, Black Lives Matter. We’ve witnessed police officers marching with the protestors, or taking a knee in solidarity or hugging protestors with compassion. It’s not lost on us that some of the people who wear the shield are our brothers and sisters, our cousins and our friends.

They are our neighbors and some of them agree that this was a grave travesty. What is different this time, is that many of them have openly broken the blue code of silence to loudly proclaim that the death of George Floyd was indeed a murder.

Today we protest and march in the streets, and I’m hopeful that justice will be exacted. Some measures of reform have already begun. In Los Angeles, for instance, the allocated 7% increase to the $1.189 billion budget of the LAPD was slashed and will be diverted to the black community. And in the state of Minnesota, the Governor has brought a lawsuit, against the Minneapolis Police Department stemming from the murder of George Floyd citing “systemic racism generations deep”.

The current rallying cry to “Defund Police Departments” and divert funding to develop a new and different model of what it means to “protect and serve” could yield support. Consideration of reallocation of municipal, state, and federal resources to much needed social services to pay for more social service workers, mental health services, drug treatment, public safety, tackling homelessness, and after-school programs for our youth are some measures that could be real game-changers.

The members of the Congressional Black Caucus through the years have set forth pieces of legislation aimed at advancing the civil rights of their constituencies and we can count on one hand the progress has been made except for the major issues we all up to now, reference when we think about progress. We can name the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we can even go back as far as the 1948 Executive Order Desegregating the Armed Forces. Yes, these all stand out in our most recent memories of advancement for black people.

But now, Pandora’s box is open and we will no longer hold our breath waiting for justice. We can exhale; because this time, not only have the scales of blindness been peeled back on the policies of a corrupt criminal justice system, this time there is a loud call reverberating across the cities of America, for ending systemic institutional racism. We have momentum and the diversity of support from around the world to call for changes in our society could be the first real major step to rooting out racism in America.

We are on a different path and we cannot let up. We call upon every voting-age Ohioan to support the Introduction of the US Congress, Justice in Policing Act of 2020 as a major first step. This legislation is a call for civil rights and police reform bill drafted by Democrats aimed at combating police misconduct, excessive force and racial bias in policing. By far, this is the most comprehensive piece of federal legislation dealing with police misconduct leading to punitive action aside from the public law of 1871 dealing with “…the deprivation of any right, privileges, or immunities secured protected by the Constitution…”

So let’s breathe; catch our breath and exhale. Turn your protest in the street into a protest at the ballot box. Protest against voter suppression measures moving through state legislative chambers to make it harder and less safe to vote. Turn your protest into volunteering to get your neighbors, your friends and your family to check and make sure their voter registration is up-to-date and if not, re-register them. Turn your protest into change in the streets of Ohio and across America, in legislative chambers, and at the ballot box.

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