HARTFORD, CT — Legislative and community leaders were disgusted that they again had to rally following another police-involved murder of a black man.
The rally, which was one of many held across the country, came the same day that murder and manslaughter charges were filed against the Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck until he was dead on Monday. Floyd’s name is now being added to a long list of black men killed by white police officers.
The peaceful gathering of more than 300 at the state Capitol was organized by state Senate Democrats and was not directed against any specific group. It was a rally against police brutality and a showing of solidarity for individuals impacted by discrimination and violence.
“Everyone in this country should be up in arms to say that there should not be violence by those that we entrust with a badge and a uniform and a weapon,” Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff said. “Police are there to serve us. They’re not there to serve themselves.”
He said even those in uniform should be held accountable for violence.
The Rev. John Selders, a leader of the Moral Monday organization, said he’s tired of having to respond every time someone does something stupid.
“Again we can’t breathe?” Selders said.
He said valuing some people over other people based on skin color is called “white supremacy.”
Name by name, Selders listed the high-profile killings of black people by police. Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Sandra Bland in Texas, Amaud Arbery in Georgia, Breyonna Taylor in Kentucky, and the list went on.
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said, “It’s a terrible tragedy that this has to be repeated, again, and again and again.”
He said they can try to change things with legislation, “but what really has to change is the hearts and minds of many people in this country.”
Janee Woods, a West Hartford resident who was a candidate for town council in 2019, said proclaiming the humanity of black people is not about politics.
“It is not a political issue to demand that the police be held accountable to the community that they are supposed to serve and protect,” Woods said. “It is not a political issue. It is a moral issue.”
She said she saw a lot of familiar faces in the crowd Friday, but she also saw some “white elected officials who I’ve never seen at an action before.”
Selders said that when a woman can call police and get them to respond to a man bird-watching in Central Park, “Something’s wrong with that kind of America.” Selders was referring to the widely publicized Memorial Day incident involving Christian Cooper, who asked a woman to leash her dog in Central Park while he was bird-watching. The woman then called police and claimed he was threatening her. She has since apologized.
When it comes to police accountability in Connecticut, the legislature has had mixed results.
State Rep. Joshua Hall, D-Hartford, said that when Rep. Robyn Porter tried to introduce legislation in 2017 that would hold police officers accountable for using deadly force, police departments in Connecticut came up to the state Capitol to “intimidate her and those who supported her.”
“The question now is for my colleagues that are here today, is when we go back into session, what are we going to do?” Hall said. “Are we going to stand by and make sure it never happens again?”
State Sen. Gary Winfield succeeded in passing legislation in 2019 that changed the way information is released following any incident involving a serious use-of-force by police. The law reshapes the way police handle use-of-force incidents and fatalities by requiring certain details to be made public on request within a set period of time, and by prohibiting police from firing into fleeing vehicles.
It also included the creation of a Police Transparency and Accountability Task Force that has so far met once, in January.
Rev. John Selders talks at Black Lives Matter rally at the state Capitol in Hartford.
Posted by Christine Stuart on Friday, May 29, 2020