Following in the footsteps of the five members of the St. Louis Rams, who gave the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” gesture before a game last Sunday night, four members of the Congressional Black Caucus followed suit late Monday night, raising their hands in solidarity on the floor of Congress. The now universal gesture, given by Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Al Green (D-TX), was meant to protest the Ferguson, Missouri Grand Jury’s decision not to indict former police officer Darren Wilson over the murder of Michael Brown and to condemn police brutality nationwide.
Here are five key moments from the Congressional demonstration:
1. Representative Green praised the St. Louis Rams’ players, who were not penalized for their actions despite the St. Louis police demanding an apology. “I saw this clip where the Rams players came into the arena – ‘Hands up, don’t shoot’ … This has become the new symbol, a new statement. I want to make sure that those who participated on the Rams team, that their names are chronicled in history… I want Kenny Britt to be recognized, Tavon Austin to be recognized, Stedman Bailey to be recognized, Jared Cook, Chris Givens, and Tre Mason,” he said.
2. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), chairwoman of the caucus, called America’s handling of police brutality cases like Brown’s as well as its overall record on race relations an “embarrassment.” “The Ferguson Grand Jury’s decision not to indict former officer Darren Wilson was yet another slap in our face,” says Fudge. “It was a painful reminder that just like with Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice and so many others, that law enforcement officers kill our Black and Brown men and boys without repercussions. While some may see the Grand Jury’s decision as the system working as it should, others witnessed what we believe was a blatant miscarriage of justice. Where was the closure for Michael Brown’s parents? Where is the understanding for the outrage and desperation of the Black community? The fact that our country, the greatest country in the world, remains mired in race relation issues in the year 2014 is an embarrassment.”
3. Representative Jeffries vowed that the CBC would hold Congress accountable for its record on policies relating to police violence. “People are fed up all across America because of the injustice involved in continuing to see young, unarmed, African American men killed as a result of a young shot fired by a law enforcement officer,” exclaimed Jeffries. “People in America are fed up when a broken criminal justice system that continues to fail to deliver accountability when law enforcement officers engage in the excessive use of police force. People are fed up with prosecutors who don’t take seriously their obligation to deliver justice on behalf of the victims of police violence,” he continued. “Instead, as we recently saw down in Ferguson, Missouri, choose to act as the defense attorney for the law enforcement officer who pulled the trigger and killed Michael Brown. People are fed up. Now this is a problem that Congress can’t run away from, and the CBC stands here today to make sure that Congress runs towards the problem. That we come up with constructive solutions to breaking this cycle, this epidemic, this scourge of police violence all across America.”
4. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) said he loves the U.S. and he wants to see racism eradicated – but first there must be an acknowledgement of America’s “cancer.” “This is such a great country, and I love it so much,” he said. “I was raised in the shadow of the statue of liberty and when I graduated from law school having been the only one in my family to go to college I think my mother said thank you Jesus and I said something like thanks for the Constitution and thanks for being born in America. Like anything else you love, if there’s an illness, if there’s a problem, you would want to know what can you do to cure it,” said Rangel. “How can we say that we have a cancer until we recognize that we do, then we don't really love the country? How can we be able to say that white and black in this country are equal and that those who work hard and live by the rules have the same opportunities as each other, when we know that we have this cancer?"
5. Rangel also made a case for the United States issuing reparations beyond just a monetary sum. “Some people may talk about payment for restitution for past crimes committed against human beings but that restitution could be the ability to say that we're going to make certain that people of color in this country would be able to have access to the same type of education, live where they want to live, compete against anybody for the job, and not feeling that they're inferior because people have been taught that just because they have a different complexion that they are superior."