Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday demanded that as part of a broader legislative package aimed at curbing violence by law enforcement, Congress must enact a ban on police use of rubber bullets, tear gas, and pepper spray against protesters to ensure that those exercising their basic constitutional rights in the streets across the United States "are not treated like criminals."
"We need to ban the use of rubber bullets, tear gas, and pepper spray on protesters," Sanders said in a speech on the Senate floor. "We need to make certain that when people go to the street to protest... that their basic constitutional rights aren't denied."
Sanders also called for an end to "qualified immunity"—a longstanding legal doctrine that gives police officers sweeping protections against lawsuits—and a ban on the transfer of military equipment to local police departments.
"The American people are rightly demanding justice and an end to police brutality and murder," said the Vermont senator. "The U.S. Senate has got to act now, has got to hear the cries for justice that are coming from the streets of this country, that are coming from the African American community, from the white community, from the Latino community, from all of our people. We must act and we must act now."
Watch Sanders' full speech:
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The Vermont senator went on to rip the Republican-controlled Senate for dragging its feet in approving additional Covid-19 relief as the U.S. surpassed two million confirmed cases of the virus and experts warned of a "new wave" due to states reopening their economies without adequate safety precautions in place.
"This is the worst do-nothing Senate in modern American history," said Sanders, who slammed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for pushing off coronavirus aid as tens of millions of people across the U.S. remain out of work, hungry, and in fear of losing their homes.
Sanders called for a sweeping legislative package that includes a paycheck guarantee, Medicare expansion to cover the uninsured and underinsured, monthly $2,000 emergency payments to U.S. households, and an increase in federal nutrition benefits.
"We must act boldly and aggressively to protect the American people in the midst of this crisis," the senator said. "Anyone who thinks this is not a moment of urgency does not understand what the word urgency means. When people in America go hungry, we have got to act. When people are being evicted from their apartments or losing their homes, we have got to act and we have got to act now—not a month from now, not two months from now."