"I can't breathe."
-- the last words of George Floyd
Tomorrow was going to be a regular Monthly Meetup, but that didn't feel right.
So we're going to have a Law Enforcement Town Hall instead.
Our nation is reeling.
Here, yet again--this time in Minneapolis--a police officer killed an unarmed handcuffed black man, his knee on George Floyd's neck long after George uttered his fateful last words and lost consciousness.
(George was being arrested under suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill.)
Two months ago, police in Louisville gunned down decorated hospital EMT Breonna Taylor in her own home. She was shot at least eight times. Police had forcibly entered her home on a "no-knock" warrant searching for drugs. The police were not legally required to identify themselves as law enforcement, and Breonna appears to have mistakenly believed her gun would protect her in self-defense from intruders forcing their way into her home. (No drugs were found.)
People reasonably ask if George and Breonna would have died if they had been white.
Black and brown people must be reassured that they can breathe, that they can safely walk the nation's streets and live peaceably in their own homes without fear of police brutality.
I know you are sad, angry, frustrated, despondent. I am, too.
A lot of you want to hear from your local law enforcement leaders right now, and more importantly, they need to hear from you. We all need to know:
- What would we do if it happened here?
- What training do our local officers have in de-escalation techniques and implicit bias?
- Would our police cross the thin blue line to stop a rogue police officer in the act of murder?
- Would our Commonwealth's Attorneys prosecute such an offender?
- Can you resist arrest if the police are killing you?
- When can we get police body cameras in Alexandria and Arlington?
- How would our officials police protests if they were to turn violent?
In sum, what are we doing right now
to make sure this never happens in the future in our own community?
This virtual town hall will include:
- Alexandria Police Chief of Police Michael Brown
- Alexandria's Commonwealth's Attorney Bryan Porter, and
- Arlington's Commonwealth's Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti.
I will moderate the discussion and also take questions about what is being done--and what can be done-- at the state level to fight police brutality and systemic racism. Do we need new laws, for example?
The brutality of America’s racist past and present is omnipresent. It is our original sin. The slavery trade was centered right here in Alexandria. Lynchings happened on our street corners. Jim Crow laws kept black Alexandrians out of our city's libraries.
But our past and our present does not have to be our future.
It is up to us to work together to make it better.
We must work proactively now to reduce the possibility of it ever happening here.
May it never happen again here.
May it never happen again anywhere.
Black Lives Matter.
Only if we fight to ensure they matter...
See you tomorrow.
Mark's Monthly Meetup &
Virtual Town Hall with Law Enforcement
Sunday, May 31, 1 - 3 pm
Join via Zoom
I thank you again for the honor and privilege of serving you.
Delegate Mark Levine
Proudly serving Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax
in the Virginia House of Delegates