Politics

CBC Members Urge Justice Department to Take Action

'Every black life matters,' says Rep. Cedric L. Richmond

Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison speaks with reporters after the press conference outside the Justice Department on Thursday. (Christina Flom/CQ Roll Call)

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Thursday called for federal intervention to address police violence across the country.

Speaking outside the Justice Department, members called on the department, in particular Attorney General Loretta Lynch, to take action.

“Local police departments are unable to do it, local prosecutors are unable to do it,” said New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. “The Department of Justice must step in and do its job so we can turn the situation around once and for all.”

The call comes after police in Charlotte, North Carolina, shot Keith Lamont Scott, a 43-year-old black man, on Tuesday. The fatal shooting sparked protests in Charlotte on Tuesday and Wednesday night. One man was in critical condition after being shot by another civilian during the unrest on Wednesday. Local authorities said that at least nine civilians and five police officers were injured Wednesday, CNN reported.

Attendees at Thursday's press conference outside the DOJ included Democratic Reps. G. K. Butterfield of North Carolina, Maxine Waters of California, Reps. Yvette D. Clarke of New York, Cedric L. Richmond of Louisiana, John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Alma Adams of North Carolina.

Richmond spoke of the anger, sadness and frustration that people are feeling and called on the nation to stand up.

“Often we are called the ‘conscience of the Congress,’ and today I wear that badge,” Richmond said, referring to the CBC's well-known moniker. “The nation needs to feel the anger of those young people on the streets because when you truly believe you have nothing to lose, you are willing to lose everything.” 

He ended his remarks with an answer to the question: Do black lives matter? 

“Every, every black life matters,” he said.

Adams, whose district includes parts of Charlotte, addressed the controversy over whether or not the video of the shooting will be released. She said she visited her district on Tuesday and urged local government officials to make sure the process is transparent. 

She also said she “regrets” North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory's decision to call in the National Guard to help local police authorities, and she expressed her sadness over the violence in her community.

“As a mother of a son, as a grandmother of two young men, I believe that we need to act and we need to act on this quickly,” Adams said. 

The phrase, “No justice, no peace,” — frequently chanted during demonstrations — was brought up by Ellison, who said it did not represent a threat, but rather a forecast of what might happen if there was no justice.

“I want to know, will the system — will the criminal justice system from top to bottom — will they help us make law enforcement obey the law?” he said. 

In order to protect the next community from unwarranted violence, Ellison said, members of Congress need to act by passing legislation and being responsive to their communities.

Members brought up Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, in relation to his recent remarks on implementing stop-and-frisk practices. A federal court found New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk practices to be unconstitutional in 2014. 

“We would ask Donald Trump to bone up on his knowledge of what is constitutional and what is unconstitutional,” Clarke said. 

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.