Slamming the GOP's newly unveiled policing reform bill as inadequate to the task of curbing police violence and brutality, Sen. Bernie Sanders delivered a speech Wednesday urging the Senate to pass bold legislation that abolishes qualified immunity for law enforcement, bans police use of facial recognition technology, and ends the transfer of U.S. military equipment to local police departments.
"Now is the time to implement far-reaching reforms that will protect people and communities that have suffered police brutality, torture, and murder for far too long."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders
"Now is not the time to think small or respond with superficial, bureaucratic proposals," Sanders said on the Senate floor, referring to the bill introduced Wednesday by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). "Now is not the time for more studies. Now is the time to hold racist and corrupt police officers and police departments accountable for their actions."
The Republican bill—which was immediately criticized as insufficient by civil rights groups—includes a narrow set of proposals to incentivize police departments to offer de-escalation training, establish a "museum curriculum to educate law enforcement personnel about the history of racism," and restrict the use of chokeholds by officers.
The GOP measure, titled the JUSTICE Act, does not touch qualified immunity, a longstanding legal doctrine that gives police officers sweeping protections from civil lawsuits. The Trump White House has also voiced opposition to abolishing qualified immunity.
While praising the nationwide protest movement sparked by the killing of George Floyd for forcing legislators to respond to police violence and systemic racism, Sanders said the Republican legislation "goes nowhere near far enough" to address the demands of the hundreds of thousands of people who have taken to the streets demanding real change.
Sanders put forth a series of transformative policy solutions that would help get at the root economic and social conditions that perpetuate inequality and state violence:
Bernie on the Senate floor today:
- Legalize marijuana
- Ban military equipment for police
- end qualified immunity
- Create civilian corps of unarmed first responders
- Expand Medicare to all
- Mail high-quality masks to all
-minimum wage to $15/hr
- Save the Postal Service
— Warren Gunnels (@GunnelsWarren) June 17, 2020
"Now is the time to implement far-reaching reforms that will protect people and communities that have suffered police brutality, torture, and murder for far too long," said the Vermont senator. "And now is the time to act boldly to protect the First Amendment right to protest."
Watch Sanders' full speech: