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After Ferguson Riots, Durbin Calls Hearing on Civil Rights

Protesters chant, "hands up, don't shoot," in front of the White House on Monday night following the announcement that Darren Wilson was not indicted in the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In the wake of renewed rioting in Ferguson, Mo., Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., announced Tuesday that he intends to hold a hearing on the state of civil and human rights in the United States.  

“Racial disparities persist at many stages of the criminal justice system. Many states have enacted voting laws making it harder for minority and other voters to cast their ballots,” Durbin said in a release announcing the hearing. “And this year’s events in Ferguson, Missouri have highlighted the continued need to reevaluate and reform police practices, including the militarization of state and local law enforcement. This hearing will explore how Congress and the Executive Branch can build on recent successes and address ongoing civil and human rights challenges.” The hearing is scheduled for Dec. 9 and will be held by the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights of which Durbin is chairman.  

The hearing will come as Democrats are about to cede their gavels to Republicans Jan. 3, when the GOP takes over the Senate.  

No witnesses have been announced.  

Notice of the hearing comes as riots erupted in Ferguson, Mo., Monday night after a grand jury declined to charge police officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager.  

The likelihood of riots prompted President Barack Obama to address the nation last night calling for restraint on both sides.  

"The fact is in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color," Obama said. But he stressed that "there's never an excuse for violence."  

In September, Durbin, who is also chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee, wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel raising concerns over programs that provide surplus military equipment to state and local police.  

Related: Congressional Black Caucus Reacts to Ferguson Grand Jury  Ferguson Protestors March to Capitol, SCOTUS, DOJ Roll Call Results Map: Results and District Profiles for Every Seat Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.