In shock and grief, America is in an unprecedented moment of reflection.
The gut wrenching events of Baton Rouge, St. Paul and Dallas are beyond heartbreaking. The graphic video details of the executions of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile add agony to the latest tragedies in an endless series of police violence episodes. The lone veteran sniper in Dallas adds police assassinations to the distressing list of mass shootings.
We offer our unconditional love and support to the families of all the victims of racism and violence this past week – Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, the fallen police officers in Dallas – Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith – and two other men of color killed at the hands of police, Delrawn Small, and Pedro Erick Villanueva.
This toxic mixture of racism and fear, mental illness, and the pervasive availability of guns is killing young and old alike, and terrorizing our nation from the inside.
Let us seize this moment of national despair to end this crisis. To do so, I call for a comprehensive approach based on two major initiatives:
First, we must recognize and act on the recognition that racism and violence are deeply interconnected in American society. We cannot become a more perfect Union until we come to terms with the oppression of African-Americans, and people of color in general, that was built into the fabric of our nation from the outset. It is past time to convene a Truth and Reconciliation Commission so we can understand the living legacy of the criminal institution of slavery and its role in the ongoing culture of violence in America.
Second, I call for “comprehensive gun control” – keeping deadly weapons out of the hands of dangerous and unstable people, no matter what their job or rank. In Dallas, we see once again how readily available weapons in the hands of a deranged shooter – reportedly inflamed by retaliatory racial prejudice – leads to tragedy. In the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile tragedies, we see in anguishing detail why a badge can not be a license to kill with impunity.
It’s time to apply principles of gun control to policing as well as the broader community, and to establish non-violent, demilitarized policing. We need to provide a better example to our youth and society as a whole in managing and handling conflict. I repeat my call for community-controlled policing and non-violent policing alternatives, to provide living examples of how acting in the spirit of peace and justice can provide real solutions to community violence.
I stand behind the ongoing call of the Black Lives Matter movement to end the epidemic of police violence that continues to take thousands of lives of young Black men, women and children across this country. The unforgettable agony of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile with his girlfriend and her young daughter, has brought this crisis home in a way that is intimate and earth-shaking. In this moment of collective grief for all the victims, let this be a turning point — to come together and end this unconscionable crisis of racism and violence in America.