The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officer has galvanized the nation and the world. His murder was only one of a long, long list of murders and lynchings over decades. But this was a perfect storm that made its heinousness obvious to all: this was not the instant firing of a gun in a moment of fear, but a tortuously long, drawn out 8 minutes, 46 seconds, during which three other police stood around, onlookers pleaded for mercy, and the whole thing captured on video shared over social media. So while there were other unprovoked killings – Breonna Taylor, shot in her own apartment in the dead of night after police invaded with a no-knock warrant – this one was undeniable in demonstrating the ingrained culture that dehumanizes in order for such violence to occur, and the smug security of police, given unparalleled power of a gun and a badge, that they would not be held accountable.
Enough is enough, protesters by the tens of thousands in hundreds of cities throughout the country and the world, chant, even putting their own lives at risk, not just from the baton-wielding, tear-gas throwing, flashbang grenade hurling, rubber-bullet firing police dressed as an invading army, but from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The protests have come to suburbia and our home town as well – most affectingly, one this weekend organized by Great Neck high school students which drew well over 500 people to Firefighters Park in Great Neck Plaza. (They withstood accusations on Facebook they were terrorists who had collected stones to throw at police. Meanwhile, county police closed off the main street to traffic so they could march a mile to the Village Green, and walked along side.)
They decried the structural racism at the heart of a police culture that has its origins in catching slaves, then, morphed into an enforcement mechanism for White Supremacy, along with so many other structural inequities that, by design, have kept African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities unequal in society.
While the elements of police brutality and criminal injustice are well known, they are kept in force year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation by supremely politically powerful police unions.
Indeed, the most dramatic “reform” is to completely rebuild police departments – there are 16,000 of them. Some police departments have actually done this – Camden, NJ, for example – and it may be the only way to really root out the structural inequities, bias. Now Minneapolis’ city council has voted to disband its $193 million police department. What that actually means is that, like Camden, it intends to rebuild it, in order to make it functional and appropriate in a country that supposedly is based on principles of “equal justice for all.”
They will likely scrutinize how police officers are recruited, hired, know if there is a record of police brutality (like Timothy Loehmann who murdered 12-year old Tamir Rice). How are officers trained and what they understand their “mission” to be? One trendy training program (as John Oliver disclosed on “Last Week Tonight”) is in the “art” of “Killology” where officers are instructed that if they are not predators prepared to kill, they have no business being police.
Not only are the problems well known, but the solutions have been methodically investigated, analyzed, quantified and put in the form of recommendations – by the Obama Administration after the Ferguson, Missouri, riots that followed Michael Brown’s unprovoked murder by police. The task force developed a template for 21st Century Policing, including ending militarizing police. His Department of Justice under Eric Holder obtained consent decrees from the most vile police forces. But, like the template to address a global pandemic handed to the Trump Administration, it was immediately discarded, and the consent decrees withdrawn.
But George Floyd has created the rarest opportunity for reform. With breathtaking speed for New York or any state government, major measures for a “Say Their Name” police reform agenda have already passed the Legislature: Allow for transparency of prior disciplinary records by reforming 50-a; ban chokeholds; prosecute for making a false race-based 911 report; and designating the Attorney General as an independent prosecutor in cases involving death of unarmed civilian by law enforcement.
Cuomo wants to go further to “seize the momentum,” correctly seeing this time as transformational to “reinvent” policing..
“This is a long time coming,” Cuomo said. “It is time to reimagine and reinvent policing for 2020…Police are public servants for that community – if the community doesn’t trust, doesn’t respect police, police can’t do their job.”
Democrats in Congress have also seized on this transformational moment as well, introducing “Justice in Policing Act” which at the federal level would ban chokeholds; challenge “qualified immunity”; prohibit no-knock warrants; counter the trend toward militarization of police; require body and dashboard cameras; require independent prosecutors in cases of police brutality; establish a national database to track police misconduct; and (finally) make lynching a federal hate crime.
Others want more. There are calls to “defund police” – which like “They’re coming for your guns” and “Open Borders!” is a catchy slogan that fits on a sign that has been deliberately distorted by Trump and the Republicans and used to incite fear among (white suburban) voters who are being told their neighborhoods will be overrun by criminals, gangs and rapists.
What “defund police” means is reassessing what functions the police do. Do we want protectors or warriors? Are police the best ones to address situations involving mental health, drug overdoses, domestic violence or school discipline? More accurately, people are calling for “divest-reinvest”: take that money and invest in social workers, mental health professionals, and guidance counselors that police, themselves, have said they are not equipped to deal with.
And it means investing in community programs that in themselves reduce crime. That’s what Cuomo is proposing in a Justice Agenda to root out the causes of criminal injustice, all on view in conjunction with the coronavirus epidemic and its disproportionate impact on communities of color: it goes to addressing the disparities in education, housing, health care, poverty.
“This is not just a moment for political protest,” Governor Cuomo said. “It’s not just a moment to express outrage. It’s a moment to do something about it, and to make real reform and real change. That’s the goal of the moment. I understand the emotion. I want people to know how upset I am. Good. Second step, what do we do about it? And let’s get it done here in the State of New York.
“When we talk about a Justice Agenda, we want to fight the systemic racism, inequality and injustice in our society. That is what the protesters are saying and I stand with the protesters in saying that because it’s very true. But in this moment of change, let’s make it real change and let’s get to the root of the issue. You want to talk about injustice and inequality in America. Well then it has to start with our education system. We do not educate all children the same. ‘Opportunity for all.’ No, opportunity for some, opportunity for people who grow up in a rich school district and a rich family with high property taxes and they go to great schools, but not for the children who grow up in poorer communities, who go to inferior schools. That is the reality today. That is the truth. I’m saying that as Governor of New York not as a protester on a street corner. It is a fact. Even in this state, we spent $36,000 per year, per student, in a wealthy school district, $13,000 per year in a poorer school district. How do you rationalize that? You can’t and say this is a system that provides equal opportunity for all.
“How do you still have children living in poverty? With all this wealth, with all this abundance, how do you tolerate a situation where some children to no fault of their own, you can’t blame them, they were born into one circumstance and they are living in poverty? You can’t justify it. The number of homeless, lack of affordable housing, you have a federal government that just went out of the housing business. I was the former housing secretary, worked in housing all my life. Housing was a federal responsibility, not state, not local. 1949 Housing Act, “for this nation, safe, clean, decent housing for all Americans.” 1949, it’s 2020, what are we doing? There’s no section eight, no section eight project base, no more public housing, and then we wonder why there is an affordable housing shortage.
“And yes, criminal justice reform, why do we lock up more people than any industrialized nation on the globe? That is a sign of success? …Why do we have racial disparity in the criminal justice system? How do you rationalize it? Unless it goes back to the other systemic injustices and inequality, if a person grows up in poverty, if a person doesn’t have education, if a person doesn’t have access to opportunity, then you see the result in the criminal justice system. This is how you get at injustice and inequality, and you can’t do it piecemeal, either attack it fully or you will never defeat it. That is the justice agenda. And this has to be done on the federal level and it should be done on the federal level because this is not a New York or California or Florida issue. It is an American issue. And you are in the middle of election season, stand up and say, ‘Here is my election reform agenda. You want my support and my vote? Here is my agenda. You are running for Congress, you’re running for Senate, or whatever you’re running for, you want my support? Here is my agenda.’ That is my opinion,” Cuomo said.
But none of this will happen as long as Trump and the Republicans are in power.
Amid national protests over police brutality and the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Donald Trump calling out the military against peaceful protesters outside the White House, VP Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, declares, “The moment has come for our nation to deal with systemic racism. To deal with the growing economic inequality in our nation. And to deal with the denial of the promise of this nation — to so many.“
“We are a nation in pain,” Biden declared. “but we must not allow this pain to destroy us. We are a nation enraged, but we cannot allow our rage to consume us. We are a nation exhausted, but we will not allow our exhaustion to defeat us.
“As President, it is my commitment to all of you to lead on these issues — to listen. Because I truly believe in my heart of hearts, that we can overcome. And when we stand together, finally, as One America, we will rise stronger than before.”
Here is a transcript of Vice President Joe Biden’s speech delivered from the Mayor’s Reception Room in Philadelphia City Hall in front of an audience that included Mayor Jim Kenney, Congressman Brendan Boyle, and state and local elected officials.:
“I can’t breathe.” “I can’t breathe.”
George Floyd’s last words. But they didn’t die with him. They’re still being heard. They’re echoing across this nation.
They speak to a nation where too often just the color of your skin puts your life at risk.
They speak to a nation where more than 100,000 people have lost their lives to a virus – and 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment – with a disproportionate number of these deaths and job losses concentrated in black and brown communities.
And they speak to a nation where every day millions of people – not at the moment of losing their life – but in the course of living their life – are saying to themselves, “I can’t breathe.”
It’s a wake-up call for our nation. For all of us.
And I mean all of us. It’s not the first time we’ve heard these words – they’re the same words we heard from Eric Garner when his life was taken six years ago.
But it’s time to listen to these words. Understand them. And respond to them – with real action.
The country is crying out for leadership. Leadership that can unite us. Leadership that can bring us together. Leadership that can recognize the pain and deep grief of communities that have had a knee on their neck for too long.
But there is no place for violence.
No place for looting or destroying property or burning churches, or destroying businesses — many of them built by people of color who for the first time were beginning to realize their dreams and build wealth for their families.
Nor is it acceptable for our police — sworn to protect and serve all people — to escalate tensions or resort to excessive violence.
We need to distinguish between legitimate peaceful protest — and opportunistic violent destruction.
And we must be vigilant about the violence that’s being done by the incumbent president to our democracy and to the pursuit of justice.
When peaceful protestors are dispersed by the order of the President from the doorstep of the people’s house, the White House — using tear gas and flash grenades — in order to stage a photo op at a noble church, we can be forgiven for believing that the president is more interested in power than in principle.
More interested in serving the passions of his base than the needs of the people in his care.
For that’s what the presidency is: a duty of care — to all of us, not just our voters, not just our donors, but all of us.
The President held up a bible at St. John’s church yesterday.
If he opened it instead of brandishing it, he could have learned something: That we are all called to love one another as we love ourselves.
That’s hard work. But it’s the work of America.
Donald Trump isn’t interested in doing that work.
Instead he’s preening and sweeping away all the guardrails that have long protected our democracy.
Guardrails that have helped make possible this nation’s path to a more perfect union.
A union that constantly requires reform and rededication – and yes the protests from voices of those mistreated, ignored, left out and left behind.
But it’s a union worth fighting for and that’s why I’m running for President.
In addition to the Bible, he might also want to open the U.S. Constitution.
If he did, he’d find the First Amendment. It protects “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Mr. President: That is America.
Not horses rising up on their hind legs to push back a peaceful protest. Not using the American military to move against the American people. This nation is a nation of values. Our freedom to speak is the cherished knowledge that lives inside every American.
We will not allow any President to quiet our voice.
We won’t let those who see this as an opportunity to sow chaos throw up a smokescreen to distract us from the very real and legitimate grievances at the heart of these protests.
And we can’t leave this moment thinking we can once again turn away and do nothing. We can’t.
The moment has come for our nation to deal with systemic racism. To deal with the growing economic inequality in our nation. And to deal with the denial of the promise of this nation — to so many.
I’ve said from the outset of this election that we are in a battle for the soul of this nation. Who we are. What we believe. And maybe most important — who we want to be.
It’s all at stake. That is truer today than ever. And it’s in this urgency we can find the path forward.
The history of this nation teaches us that it’s in some of our darkest moments of despair that we’ve made some of our greatest progress.
The 13th and 14th and 15th Amendments followed the Civil War. The greatest economy in the history of the world grew out of the Great Depression. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 came in the tracks of Bull Connor’s vicious dogs.
To paraphrase Reverend Barber — it’s in the mourning we find hope.
It will take more than talk. We’ve had talk before. We’ve had protests before.
Let us vow to make this, at last, an era of action to reverse systemic racism with long overdue and concrete changes.
That action will not be completed in the first 100 days of my Presidency — or even an entire term.
It is the work of a generation.
But if this agenda will take time to complete, it should not wait for the first 100 days of my Presidency to get started.
A down payment on what is long overdue should come now. Immediately.
I call on Congress to act this month on measures that would be a first step in this direction. Starting with real police reform.
Congressman Jeffries has a bill to outlaw choke holds. Congress should put it on President Trump’s desk in the next few days.
There are other measures: to stop transferring weapons of war to police forces, to improve oversight and accountability, to create a model use of force standard — that also should be made law this month.
No more excuses. No more delays.
If the Senate has time to confirm Trump’s unqualified judicial nominees who will run roughshod over our Constitution, it has time to pass legislation that will give true meaning to our Constitution’s promise of “equal protection of the laws.”
Looking ahead, in the first 100 days of my presidency, I have committed to creating a national police oversight commission.
I’ve long believed we need real community policing.
And we need each and every police department in the country to undertake a comprehensive review of their hiring, their training, and their de-escalation practices.
And the federal government should give them the tools and resources they need to implement reforms.
Most cops meet the highest standards of their profession. All the more reason that bad cops should be dealt with severely and swiftly. We all need to take a hard look at the culture that allows for these senseless tragedies to keep happening.
And we need to learn from the cities and precincts that are getting it right.
We know, though, that to have true justice in America, we need economic justice, too.
Here, too, there is much to be done.
As an immediate step, Congress should act to rectify racial inequities in the allocation of COVID-19 recovery funds.
I will be setting forth more of my agenda on economic justice and opportunity in the weeks and months ahead.
But it begins with health care. It should be a right not a privilege. The quickest route to universal coverage in this country is to expand Obamacare.
We could do it. We should do it.
But this president — even now — in the midst of a public health crisis with massive unemployment wants to destroy it.
He doesn’t care how many millions of Americans will be hurt— because he is consumed with his blinding ego when it comes to President Obama.
The President should withdraw his lawsuit to strike down Obamacare, and the Congress should prepare to act on my proposal to expand Obamacare to millions more.
These last few months we have seen America’s true heroes. The health care workers, the nurses, delivery truck drivers, grocery store workers.
We have a new phrase for them: Essential workers.
But we need to do more than praise them. We need to pay them.
Because if it wasn’t clear before, it’s clear now. This country wasn’t built by Wall Street bankers and CEOs. It was built by America’s great middle class — by our essential workers.
I know there is enormous fear and uncertainty and anger in the country. I understand.
And I know so many Americans are suffering. Suffering the loss of a loved one. Suffering economic hardships. Suffering under the weight of generation after generation after generation of hurt inflicted on people of color — and on black and Native communities in particular.
I know what it means to grieve. My losses are not the same as the losses felt by so many. But I know what it is to feel like you cannot go on.
I know what it means to have a black hole of grief sucking at your chest.
Just a few days ago marked the fifth anniversary of my son Beau’s passing from cancer. There are still moments when the pain is so great it feels no different from the day he died. But I also know that the best way to bear loss and pain is to turn all that anger and anguish to purpose.
And, Americans know what our purpose is as a nation. It has guided us from the very beginning.
It’s been reported. That on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, little Yolanda King came home from school in Atlanta and jumped in her father’s arms.
“Oh, Daddy,” she said, “now we will never get our freedom.”
Her daddy was reassuring, strong, and brave.
“Now don’t you worry, baby,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. “It’s going to be all right.”
Amid violence and fear, Dr. King persevered.
He was driven by his dream of a nation where “justice runs down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
Then, in 1968 hate would cut him down in Memphis.
A few days before Dr. King was murdered, he gave a final Sunday sermon in Washington.
He told us that though the arc of a moral universe is long, it bends toward justice.
And we know we can bend it — because we have. We have to believe that still. That is our purpose. It’s been our purpose from the beginning.
To become the nation where all men and women are not only created equal — but treated equally.
To become the nation defined — in Dr. King’s words — not only by the absence of tension, but by the presence of justice.
Today in America it’s hard to keep faith that justice is at hand. I know that. You know that.
The pain is raw. The pain is real.
A president of the United States must be part of the solution, not the problem. But our president today is part of the problem.
When he tweeted the words “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” – those weren’t the words of a president. They were the words of a racist Miami police chief from the 1960s.
When he tweeted that protesters “would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs … that’s when people would have been really badly hurt.” Those weren’t the words of a president — those were the kind of words a Bull Connor would have used unleashing his dogs.
The American story is about action and reaction. That’s the way history works. We can’t be naïve about that.
I wish I could say this hate began with Donald Trump and will end with him. It didn’t and it won’t. American history isn’t a fairytale with a guaranteed happy ending.
The battle for the soul of this nation has been a constant push-and-pull for more than 240 years.
A tug of war between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart. The honest truth is both elements are part of the American character.
At our best, the American ideal wins out.
It’s never a rout. It’s always a fight. And the battle is never finally won.
But we can’t ignore the truth that we are at our best when we open our hearts, not when we clench our fists. Donald Trump has turned our country into a battlefield riven by old resentments and fresh fears.
He thinks division helps him.
His narcissism has become more important than the nation’s well-being he leads.
I ask every American to look at where we are now, and think anew: Is this who we are? Is this who we want to be? Is this what we pass on to our kids’ and grandkids’ lives? Fear and finger-pointing rather than hope and the pursuit of happiness? Incompetence and anxiety? Self-absorption and selfishness?
Or do we want to be the America we know we can be. The America we know in our hearts we could be and should be.
Look, the presidency is a big job. Nobody will get everything right. And I won’t either.
But I promise you this. I won’t traffic in fear and division. I won’t fan the flames of hate.
I will seek to heal the racial wounds that have long plagued this country – not use them for political gain.
I’ll do my job and take responsibility. I won’t blame others. I’ll never forget that the job isn’t about me.
It’s about you.
And I’ll work to not only rebuild this nation. But to build it better than it was.
To build a better future. That’s what America does.
We build the future. It may in fact be the most American thing to do.
We hunger for liberty the way Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass did.
We thirst for the vote the way Susan B. Anthony and Ella Baker and John Lewis did. We strive to explore the stars, to cure disease, to make this imperfect Union as perfect as we can.
We may come up short — but at our best we try.
We are facing formidable enemies.
They include not only the coronavirus and its terrible impact on our lives and livelihoods, but also the selfishness and fear that have loomed over our national life for the last three years.
Defeating those enemies requires us to do our duty — and that duty includes remembering who we should be.
We should be the America of FDR and Eisenhower, of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., of Jonas Salk and Neil Armstrong.
We should be the America that cherishes life and liberty and courage.
Above all, we should be the America that cherishes each other – each and every one.
We are a nation in pain, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us. We are a nation enraged, but we cannot allow our rage to consume us. We are a nation exhausted, but we will not allow our exhaustion to defeat us.
As President, it is my commitment to all of you to lead on these issues — to listen. Because I truly believe in my heart of hearts, that we can overcome. And when we stand together, finally, as One America, we will rise stronger than before.
So reach out to one another. Speak out for one another. And please, please take care of each other.
This is the United States of America. And there is nothing we can’t do. If we do it together.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo proposed a positive reform agenda to address systemic racism and police brutality amidst the ongoing protests across the state and nation in response to the killing of George Floyd. The reform agenda includes a national ban on excessive force and chokeholds by law enforcement officers; independent investigations of police brutality conducted by independent, outside agencies – not by local prosecutors; and disclosure of disciplinary records of police officers being investigated.
While standing firmly in support of the protests against police brutality, the Governor said that protest for its own sake would only work against the cause, but that there needs to be a clearly defined list of actions that need to be articulated.
“You want to make that moment work,” he declared. “Yes, you express the outrage. But then you say, ‘Here’s my agenda. Here’s what I want.’ That’s what we have to be doing in this moment. And the protesters are making a point. And most of them are making a smart, sensible point. But you have to add the positive reform agenda that every voice calls for so the government, the politicians know what to do. And there is a positive reform agenda here. There should be a national ban on excessive force by police officers. There should be a national ban on chokeholds. Period. There should be independent investigations of police abuse.”
And Cuomo also differentiated between the those who are exercising their Constitutional First Amendment right to protest against those who are taking advantage to loot and vandalize, giving Trump the opportunity to deflect and discount, and shift focus to himself as the “law-and-order” strongman. Indeed, there are reports that White Nationalist group is posing as Antifa on Twitter, calling for violence. Trump is proposing to designate Antifa a terrorist group, and is using them to justify calling out military against protesters – which would be a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act.
“There’s no doubt that what the President’s trying to do here is turn the attention to the looters rather than the point of the protest, which is genuine outrage,” Cuomo said in an interview with Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC. “”You look at what happened with Mr. Floyd, you have to be outraged. It’s not just Mr. Floyd in an isolated situation, it’s been years and years of the same situation. You can go back to Rodney King, Amadou Diallo and Eric Garner – it’s a long list.
“They want to make this about looting and criminals rather than the killing. That’s what they’re trying to do. In New York, we did have large protests and we do have people who are, I think, exploiting the protest. There’s no doubt that there’s some people who came out and did looting and criminal activity. You have some disrupting organizations that are seizing upon the moment. We want to make sure that order is maintained and we’re putting in place a curfew.”
“Use this moment. You look in history, Nicolle, when did change come? Change came when the people insisted on change. Let’s talk about investigation of police abuse. No chokeholds, nation-wide standard for undue force. Let’s talk about funding of education and equal funding in education. Let’s talk about affordable housing. Let’s talk about a child poverty agenda. Let’s use the moment constructively.”
Cuomo ordered a curfew of 11 pm in New York City, and doubled the number of police, from 4,000 to 8,000. However, that was not enough to stop a spate of acts of looting and vandalism.
The protests come just as New York City was hitting the milestones in the fight against COVID-19, which has taken more lives – and more disproportionately in communities of color – in the city and state than anywhere in the country or world. The Governor said that if there was any “silver” lining in the timing, the protests are happening when the infection rate has been cut from 20 percent to 2 percent but still raised concerns of reigniting the spread of the pandemic.
Here is a transcript of Governor Cuomo’s remarks:
We’re talking about reopening in one week in New York City. Now we’re seeing these mass gatherings over the past several nights that could, in fact, exacerbate the COVID-19 spread. We spent all this time closed down, locked down, masked, socially distanced and then you turn on the TV and you see there’s mass gatherings that could potentially be infecting hundreds and hundreds of people. After everything that we have done. We have to talk a minute and ask ourselves what are we doing here? What are we trying to accomplish?
We have protests across the state that continued last night, they continued across the nation. Upstate we worked with the cities very closely. The State Police did a great job. We had, basically, a few scattered arrests, upstate New York. But the local governments did a great job, the people did a great job, law enforcement did a great job. The protestors were responsible. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad, either, upstate.
I said from day one, I share the outrage and I stand with the protestors. You look at that video of the killing of an unarmed man, Mr. Floyd, it is horrendous. Horrendous. It’s frightening. It perverts everything you believe about this country. It does and there’s no excuse for it. No right minded American would make an excuse for it. So, protest yes. Be frustrated, yes. Outraged, yes of course. Is there a larger problem? Of course. It’s not just Mr. Floyd, it goes back – there are 50 cases that are just like Mr. Floyd. We’ve them here in New York City. What’s the difference between Mr. Floyd and Amadou Diallo? Or Abner Louima? Or Eric Garner? What is the difference? What have we learned? Nothing?
So, yes, we should be outraged. And yes, there’s a bigger point to make. It is abuse by police. But it’s something worse. It is racism. It is discrimination. It is fundamental inequality and injustice. My father spoke about it in 1984. The speech called “The Tale of Two Cities.” People still talk about it. The point of the tale of two cities is there’s two Americas. Two sets of rules. Two sets of outcomes. Two sets of expectations. It’s true. It was true then, it’s true now. Look at our prisons and tell me there’s not inherit injustice in society. Look at public housing, tell me there’s not inherent injustice.
Look at what happened with this COVID infection rate nationwide. More African Americans infected, more African Americans dead proportionally than white Americans. Of course, there’s chronic institutionalized discrimination. There is no doubt. There is no doubt. And there’s no doubt that it’s been going on for a long time and people are frustrated, and it has to be corrected and it has to be corrected now. And there’s no doubt, that this nation as great as it is has had the continuing sin of discrimination. From before the nation was formed and it started with slavery. And it has had different faces over the decades, but it’s still the same sin. That is true. That is true. So let’s use this moment as a moment of change? Yes.
When does change come? When the stars align and society focuses and the people focus, and they focus to such an extent that the politicians follow the people. That’s when change comes. “Well, the leaders lead!” Baloney. The people lead. And then the politicians see the people moving, and the politicians run to catch up with the people. How did we pass marriage equality in this State, giving a new civil right to the LGBTQ community? Because the people said, “enough is enough. How can you say only heterosexual people can marry, but the LGBTQ people— they can’t marry? How is that constitutional? How is that legal?” You have your own preference— God bless you. But how in the law, do you discriminate between two classes of people. We passed marriage equality.
After the Sandy Hook massacre, after all those years we tried to pass common sense gun safety. Do you really need an assault weapon to kill a deer? But then the Sandy Hook massacre happened, and the people said, “enough. You’re killing children? Young children in schools with an assault weapon? In the Sandy Hook massacre. Enough.”
And in that moment, we passed common sense gun safety in the State of New York. Record income inequality? People said, “enough” and passed a real minimum wage in this State that went all across the nation. There’s a moment for change, and is there a moment here? Yes. If we’re constructive and if we’re smart, and if we know what were asking for! It’s not enough to come out and say, “I’m angry, I’m frustrated.” OK. And what? “Well, I don’t know, but I’m angry and frustrated.”
And you want what done? You need the answer. “Well, I want common sense gun reform.” OK, what does it look like? Here it is— three points. “Well I want to address income inequality.” Well, what do you want? “Here’s what I want. Minimum wage at $15. Free college tuition.” What do you want?
You want to make that moment work. Yes, you express the outrage! But then you say, “here’s my agenda. Here’s what I want.” That’s what we have to be doing in this moment. And the protestors are making a point. And most of them are making a smart, sensible point. But you have to add the positive reform agenda that every voice calls for so the government, the politicians know what to do. And there is a positive reform agenda here. There should be a national ban on excessive force by police officers. There should be a national ban on chokeholds. Period. There should be independent investigations of police abuse. When you have the local District Attorney doing the investigations— I don’t care how good they are— there is the suggestion of a conflict of interest. Why? Because that DA works with that police department every day and now that prosecutor is going to do the investigation of that police department that they work with every day? Conflict of interests can be real or perceived. How can people believe that the local prosecutor who works with that police department is going to be fair in the investigation? It shouldn’t be state by state. Minnesota Governor Walz put the attorney general in charge. Good. In this state, I put attorney general in charge of investigations where police kill an unarmed person. Good. But it shouldn’t be the exception. It should be the rule. There is no self-policing. There’s an allegation, independent investigation. Give people comfort that the investigation is real.
If a police officer is being investigated, how is there disciplinary records not relevant? Once a police officer is being investigated, if they have disciplinary records that show this was a repeat pattern, how is that not relevant? By the way, the disciplinary records can also be used to exonerate. If they have disciplinary records that say he never, she never did anything like this before, fine. That’s relevant too.
We still have two education systems in this country. Everybody knows it. Your education is decided by your zip code. Poorer schools in poorer communities have a different level of funding than richer schools in this state. $36,000 per year we spend in a rich district. $13,000 in a poor district. How do you justify that? If anything, the children in a poorer community need more services in a school, not less. How do you justify that? You can’t. Do something about it. You still have children living in poverty in this nation? Well, when we had to, we found a trillion dollars to handle the COVID virus, but you can’t find funding to help children who live in poverty? No, you can find it, United States. You just don’t want to. It’s political will. When you need to find the money, you can find it. Let’s be honest, the federal government has a printing press in their basement. When they have the political will, they find the money.
The federal government went out of the housing business and never re-entered it. We have a national affordable housing crisis. Of course you do. You don’t fund affordable housing. I’m the former HUD secretary. I know better than anyone what the federal government used to do in terms of affordable housing with Section 8 and building new public housing. And we just stopped, and we left it to the market. Now you have an affordable housing plan. That’s what we should be addressing in this moment. And we should be saying to our federal officials, “There’s an election this year, a few months away. Here’s my agenda. Where do you stand?” Say to the congress, the House and Senate, “Where’s your bill on this?”
I heard some congressional people talking saying well maybe they’ll do a resolution. Yeah, resolutions are nice. Resolutions say in theory I support this. Pass a law, that’s what we want. A law that actually changes the reality, where something actually happens. That’s government’s job is to actually make change. Make change. You’re in a position to make change. Make change. Use this moment to galvanize public support. Use that outrage to actually make the change. And have the intelligence to say what changes you actually want. Otherwise, it’s just screaming into the wind if you don’t know exactly what changes we need to make.
And we have to be smart in this moment. The violence in these protests obscures the righteousness of the message. The people who are exploiting the situation, the looting, that’s not protesting. That’s not righteous indignation. That’s criminality and it plays into the hands of the people and the forces that don’t want to make the changes in the first place because then they get to dismiss the entire effort. I will tell you what they’re going to say. They’re going to say the first thing the President said when this happened. They’re going to say “These are looters.” Remember when the President put out that incendiary tweet? “We start shooting when they start looting or they start looting, we start shooting?” That’s an old ’60s call. The violence, the looting, the criminality plays right into those people who don’t want progressive change. And you mark my words, they’re going to say today, “Oh you see, they’re criminals. They’re looters. Did you see what they did breaking the store windows and going in and stealing?” And they’re going to try to paint this whole protest movement that they’re all criminals, they’re all looters. That’s what they’re going to do. Why? They don’t want to talk about Mr. Floyd’s death. They don’t want people seeing that video. They want people seeing the video of the looting. And when people see the video of the looting they say “Oh yeah, that’s scary. They’re criminals.” No, look at the video of the police officer killing Mr. Floyd. That’s the video we want people watching.
Now, I don’t even believe it’s the protesters. I believe there are people who are using this moment and using the protest for their own purpose. There are people who want to sow the seeds of anarchy, who want to disrupt. By the way, there are people who want to steal. And here’s a moment that you can use this moment to steal. You can use this moment to spread chaos. I hear the same thing from all the local officials. They have people in their communities who are there to quote unquote protest. They’re not from their community. They don’t know where they’re from, extremist groups, some people are going to blame the left, some people will blame the right. It will become politicized. But there is no doubt there are outside groups that come in to disrupt. There is no doubt that there are people who just use this moment to steal. What, it’s a coincidence they broke into a Rolex watch company? That was a coincidence? High end stores, Chanel. That was a coincidence? That was random? That was not random. So, can you have a legitimate protest movement hijacked? Yes, you can. Yes, you can. And there are people and forces who will exploit that moment and I believe that’s happening.
But we still have to be smart. And at the same time, we have a fundamental issue which is we just spent 93 days limiting behavior, closing down, no school, no business, thousands of small businesses destroyed. People will have lost their jobs. People wiped out their savings. And now mass gatherings with thousands of people in close proximity one week before we’re going to reopen New York City? What sense does this make? Control the spread, control the spread, control the spread. We don’t even know the consequence for the COVID virus of those mass gatherings. We don’t even know. We won’t know possibly for weeks. It’s the nature of the virus. How many super-spreaders were in that crowd? “Well, they were mostly young people.” How many young people went home and kissed their mother hello or shook hands with their father or hugged their father or their grandfather or their brother or their mother or their sister and spread a virus?
New York City opens next week. Took us 93 days to get here. Is this smart? New York tough. We went from the worst situation to reopening. From the worst situation to 54 deaths in 50 days. We went from the worst situation to reopening in 93 days. We did that because we were New York tough. New York tough was smart. We were smart. We were smart for 93 days. We were united, we were respectful of each other. We were disciplined. Wearing the mask is just discipline, it’s just discipline. Remember to put it on, remember to pick it up, remembering to put it on when see someone, it’s just discipline.
It was also about love. We did it because we love one another. That’s what a community is. We love one another. And yes, you can be loving even in New York. Even with the New York toughness, even with a New York accent, even with a New York swagger. We’re loving. That’s what we’ve done for 93 days in a way we’ve never done it before. Never in my lifetime. Never in my lifetime has this city and this state come together in the way we have. I don’t think it ever will again, in my lifetime. Now you can say maybe it takes a global pandemic for it to happen. I don’t know if that’s true and I don’t know that the power of what it was like when it came together might not be so beautiful that people want to do it again.
Remember when we all acted together during coronavirus and we rallied and we knocked coronavirus on its rear end. Remember when we all wore masks and we had to have hand sanitizer? Remember what we did? Wow. When we come together, we can do anything and it’s true. It’s true for the state, it’s true for a nation. When you come together and you have one agenda you can do anything. You want to change society, you want to end the tale of two cities, you want to make it one America? You can do that, just the way you knocked coronavirus on its rear end.
People united can do anything. We showed that, we just showed that the past 93 days. We can end the injustice and the discrimination and the intolerance and the police abuse. We have to be smart. We have to be smart right now. Right now in this state. We have to be smart tonight in this city because this is not advancing a reform agenda. This is not persuading government officials to change. This is not helping end coronavirus. We have to be smart.
Vice President Joe Biden can address the systemic racism and inequality in our justice system in ways that even President Barack Obama couldn’t. In just a few minutes remarks, the presumptive nominee for president of the Democratic party summed up centuries of injustice and terror, saying, “And it is long past time we made the promise of this nation real for all people. This is no time for incendiary tweets. This is no time to encourage violence. This is a national crisis, and we need real leadership right now.” He spoke after meeting with George Floyd’s family, after nights of peaceful then violent protest and just before the officer who caused his death was arrested for murder.
Once again — the words “I can’t breathe.”
An act of brutality so elemental, it did more than deny one more black man in America his civil rights and his human rights. It denied his very humanity. It denied him of his life.
Depriving George Floyd – as it deprived Eric Garner – of the one thing every human being must be able to do: Breathe.
So simple. So basic. So brutal.
The same thing happened with Ahmaud Arbery. The same with Breonna Taylor. The same thing with George Floyd.
We’ve spoken their names aloud. Cried them out in pain and horror. Chiseled them into long suffering hearts.
They are the latest additions to an endless list of lives stolen–potential wiped out unnecessarily.
It’s a list that dates back more than 400 years: black men, black women, black children.
The original sin of this country still stains our nation today.
Sometimes we manage to overlook it, and just push forward with the thousand other tasks of daily life. But it’s always there.
And weeks like this, we see it plainly.
We are a country with an open wound.
None of us can turn away.
None of us can be silent.
None of us any longer can hear those words — “I can’t breathe” — and do nothing.
We cannot fall victim to what Martin Luther King called the “appalling silence of the good people.”
Every day, African Americans go about their lives with constant anxiety and trauma, wondering — who will be next?
Imagine if every time your husband or son, wife or daughter, left the house, you feared for their safety from bad actors and bad police.
Imagine if you had to have that talk with your child about not asserting their rights — and taking the abuse handed out to them — just so they could make it home.
Imagine having the police called on you – for just sitting in Starbucks or renting an Airbnb or watching birds.
That is the norm for black people in this nation — they don’t have to imagine it.
The anger and the frustration and the exhaustion — it’s undeniable.
But that is not the promise of America.
And it is long past time we made the promise of this nation real for all people.
This is no time for incendiary tweets. This is no time to encourage violence.
This is a national crisis, and we need real leadership right now.
Leadership that will bring everyone to the table so we can take measures to root out systemic racism.
It’s time for us to take a hard look at uncomfortable truths.
It’s time for us to face the deep, open wound we have in this nation.
We need justice for George Floyd.
We need real police reform that holds all cops up to the high standards that so many of them actually meet — that holds bad cops accountable, and that repairs the relationship between law enforcement and the community they are sworn to protect.
And we need to stand up as a nation — with the black community, and with all minority communities — and come together as one America.
That’s the challenge we face.
And it will require those of us who sit in positions of influence to finally deal with the abuse of power.
The pain is too immense for one community to bear alone.
It is the duty of every American to grapple with it — and grapple with it now.
With our complacency, our silence — we are complicit in perpetuating these cycles of violence.
Nothing about this will be easy or comfortable. But if we simply allow this wound to scab over once more, without treating the underlying injury — we will never truly heal.
The very soul of America is at stake.
We must commit, as a nation, to pursue justice with every ounce of our being. We have to pursue it with real urgency. We have to make real the American promise, which we have never fully grasped: That all men and women are not only equal at creation, but throughout their lives.
The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Pete Buttigieg, stepping up his progressive bona fides, offered his plan to rebalance the economy in favor of American families, while ensuring the largest corporations and the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share. This is from the Buttigieg campaign:
Los Angeles, CA – Today, Pete Buttigieg announced a series of proposals to rebalance
the economy in favor of American families while ensuring the largest
corporations and the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share.
Pete is announcing a series of proposals that
will provide tax relief to the 98% of American households that aren’t in the
richest 2%, including expanding the child tax credit to reduce child poverty by
2.5 million, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit by an average of $1,000 per
year for 35 million American families and rolling back the Trump
administration’s cap on the State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT), which
disproportionately hurts states like California in their efforts to enact more
progressive tax policies.
At the same time, Pete will hold Wall Street and
corporations accountable for paying their fair share. As president, Pete will
roll back the Trump and Reagan-era tax cuts on millionaires and billionaires,
impose a Financial Transaction Tax and make big banks pay for financial crisis
risk to ensure Wall Street no longer takes advantage of Main Street, and crack
down on multinational corporations shipping profits and jobs
“This president has done everything in his
power to line the pockets of corporations and the wealthy, while too many
working and middle class families are having to choose between child care and
saving for college, and while homeownership remains out of reach for millions,”
said Pete Buttigieg. “As president, I will rebalance our economy so it works
for all Americans, hold Wall Street and corporations accountable, and bring
fairness to our tax system so we can lift millions out of poverty and into
Pete’s plans to achieve tax fairness in America
Expanding the Child Tax Credit to reduce child poverty
by 2.5 million
Under the Trump administration, housing and health care costs have
outstripped working-class wages. As President, Pete will rebalance the economy
in favor of working and middle class Americans by making the current Child Tax
Credit fully refundable, so every family earning under $400,000 receives $2,000
per child per year in refundable tax relief. He will also create an additional
$1,000 refundable Young Child Tax Credit for children under 6. These policies
will lift 2.5 million children out of poverty, including 1.5 million Black and
Expanding the Earned
Income Tax Credit.
Pete will expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and grow workers’
incomes by an average of $1,000 per year for 35 million American households.
This tax cut will help put more money in the hands of workers and middle class
families by offsetting income taxes and other taxes that eat into workers’ take
punitive cap on the State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT) for households earning
less than $400,000.
SALT avoids penalizing states and cities in high-cost areas and
with robust social services, by allowing families to pay state and local taxes
out of pre-federal-income-tax dollars and thereby avoid double taxation. In the
2017 Republican tax bill, while at the same time as providing tax breaks to
corporations and millionaires, Trump placed a politically motivated cap on
SALT. Trump’s economic adviser gloated that it would deliver “death to
Democrats” by hurting families in Democratic-leaning states with high costs of
living and more progressive tax policies and social services. Removing the SALT
cap for families undoes Trump’s politically motivated tax increase and enables
governors and mayors across the country to enact progressive tax
These efforts bring Pete’s total direct
investments in the working and middle class families to $6 trillion and, in
combination with his other policy proposals, will cut child poverty in half. He
makes an additional $3 trillion of long-term investments in climate resilience,
strengthening our infrastructure, and protecting Social Security for American
workers and families.
At the same time as providing tax relief to
working and middle class Americans, Pete will hold Wall Street, corporations
and the wealthy accountable to pay their fair share by:
Rolling back the Trump and Reagan-era tax cuts for
corporations and the wealthy.
Pete will raise the total effective tax rate on millionaires from
31% to 49%, rolling back the Trump and Reagan-era tax cuts for the wealthiest
Americans and the corporations they own. In rolling back these tax cuts – which
lined the pockets of corporations, millionaires and billionaires – Pete will
achieve historic tax fairness by raising $9 trillion from corporations, Wall
Street, and the top 2% over the next ten years and will raise over $5 trillion
from wealth and wealth income.
Holding Wall Street
accountable through a Financial Transaction Tax and by making banks pay for
It’s time that Wall Street be held accountable for taking
advantage of Main Street. As president, Pete will impose a .1% financial
transaction tax on all stock and other securities trades to curb inequality and
Wall Street gambling that causes “flash crashes”. Pete will also make big banks
pay every year for the extra financial crisis risk they pose: the bigger and
more threatening the bank, the more tax they have to pay. Together, these
policies will raise $900 billion to pay for tax relief for working and middle
class Americans and to invest in priorities like education, infrastructure and
protecting Social Security.
Cracking down on
corporations shipping profits and jobs overseas.
Foreign profits of U.S. multinational corporations are currently
taxed at only 10.5% and on a weak “global basis” instead of a strong
“per-country basis”. As president, Pete will increase the tax on corporate
profits made abroad on a per-country basis at a 28-35% rate to ensure that
multinational companies are held accountable when they ship profits and jobs
overseas. This will raise over $700 billion to pay for tax relief for working
and middle class Americans and to invest in priorities like education, infrastructure
and long-term care for ailing seniors.
The Women’s Marches that took place across the country – some 250 of them including Washington DC and New York City – are the opening salvo to the 2020 Election. Make no mistake, this was about voting, realizing that all the issues that they care about hinge on the coming election and not on changing the minds of lawmakers who currently control the levers of power: reproductive freedom and a woman’s right to self-determination; access to the ballot and access to health care; climate action and environmental justice; gun safety and domestic violence; gender equity, sexism and misogyny; discrimination and sexual harassment; immigration reform and human rights. They are all on the ballot this November.
And the Supreme Court and all the courts now
dominated by radical right-wing judges that seek to roll back women’s rights,
civil rights, voting rights, health-care-is-a-human-right. “Ruth Bader
Ginsburg, hold on,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer declared as the
march set off down Columbus Avenue, passed the Trump International Hotel, where
the most animated expressions of outrage against Trump and his administration
A singular, unifying message emerged: Dump Trump and
his henchmen and his enablers.
And a theme for the New York City march organized by Women’s March Alliance (womensmarchalliance.org): Rise & Roar.
The vigorous contest of
Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent
policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren details her
plan to confront the crisis of environmental injustice. “Justice cannot be a
secondary concern – it must be at the center of our response to climate change.”
This is from the Warren campaign:
Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren has released her plan to fight for justice as we take on the climate crisis. Warren will implement an equity screen for her proposed climate investments, directing at least $1 trillion into the most vulnerable communities over the next decade and investing not only in cleaning up pollution but in building wealth and lifting up the communities in most need.
The climate crisis demands all of us to act, but it is also an opportunity to create millions of new good, middle class, union jobs and to directly confront the racial and economic inequality embedded in our fossil fuel economy. Elizabeth will honor our commitment to fossil fuel workers by fighting for guaranteed wage and benefit parity for workers transitioning into new industries, and to protect the pensions and benefits that fossil fuel workers have earned. She’ll partner with unions every step of the way.
She will hold corporate polluters accountable, working with Congress to create a private right of action for environmental harm, and imposing steep fines on violators that will be reinvested in impacted communities.
Elizabeth knows we need to elevate environmental justice at the highest levels. She’ll transform the Council on Environmental Quality into a Council on Climate Action with a broader mandate, including empowering frontline community leaders to speak directly to the White House.
In 1987, the United Church of Christ’s Commission on Racial Justice commissioned one of the first studies on hazardous waste in communities of color. A few years later — 28 years ago this month — delegates to the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit adopted 17 principles of environmental justice. But in the years since, the federal government has largely failed to live up to the vision these trailblazing leaders outlined, and to its responsibilities to the communities they represent.
From predominantly black neighborhoods in
Detroit to Navajo communities in
the southwest to Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, industrial
pollution has been concentrated in low-income communities for decades —
communities that the federal government has tacitly written off as so-called “sacrifice zones.” But
it’s not just about poverty, it’s also about race. A seminal study found
that black families are more likely to live in neighborhoods with higher
concentrations of air pollution than white families — even when they have the
same or more income. A more recent study found that while whites largely cause
air pollution, Blacks and Latinxs are more likely to breathe it in.
Unsurprisingly, these groups also experience higher rates of childhood asthma. And
many more low-income and minority communities are exposed to toxins in
their water — including lead and chemicals from industrial and agricultural
And these studies don’t tell the whole story. As I’ve
traveled this country, I’ve heard the human stories as well. In Detroit, I met
with community members diagnosed with cancer linked to exposure to toxins after
years of living in the shadow of a massive oil refinery. In New Hampshire, I
talked with mothers fighting for clean drinking water free of harmful PFAS
chemicals for their children. In South Carolina, I’ve heard the stories of the
most vulnerable coastal communities who face the greatest threats, from not
just sea-level rise, but a century of encroaching industrial polluters. In West
Virginia, I saw the consequences of the coal industry’s abandonment of the
communities that made their shareholders and their executives wealthy — stolen
pensions, poisoned miners, and ruined land and water.
We didn’t get here by accident. Our crisis of environmental
injustice is the result of decades of discrimination and environmental racism
compounding in communities that have been overlooked for too long. It is the
result of multiple choices that put corporate profits before people, while our
government looked the other way. It is unacceptable, and it must change.
Justice cannot be a secondary concern — it must be at the
center of our response to climate change. The Green New Deal commits us to a
“just transition” for all communities and all workers. But we won’t create true
justice by cleaning up polluted neighborhoods and tweaking a few regulations at
the EPA. We also need to prioritize communities that have experienced historic
disinvestment, across their range of needs: affordable housing, better
infrastructure, good schools, access to health care, and good jobs. We need
strong, resilient communities who are prepared and properly resourced to
withstand the impacts of climate change. We need big, bottom-up change —
focused on, and led by, members of these
No Community Left Behind
The same communities that have borne the brunt of industrial
pollution are now on the front lines of climate change, often getting hit first
and worst. In response, local community leaders are leading the fight to hold
polluters responsible and combat the effects of the climate crisis. In
Detroit’s 48217 zip code, for example, community members living in the midst of
industrial pollution told me how they have banded together to identify refinery
leakages and inform their neighbors. In Alabama and Mississippi, I met with
residents of formerly redlined neighborhoods who spoke to me about their fight
against drinking water pollution caused by inadequate municipal sewage systems.
Tribal Nations, which have been disproportionately impacted by environmental
racism and the effects of climate change, are leading the way in
climate resilience and adaptation strategies, and in supporting healthy
ecosystems. The federal government must do more to support and uplift the
efforts of these and other communities. Here’s how we can do that:
Improve environmental equity mapping. The EPA
currently maps communities
based on basic environmental and demographic indicators, but more can be done
across the federal government to identify at-risk communities. We need a
rigorous interagency effort to identify cumulative environmental health
disparities and climate vulnerabilities and cross-reference that data with
other indicators of socioeconomic health. We’ll use these data to adjust
permitting rules under Clean Air and Clean Water Act authorities to better
consider the impact of cumulative and overlapping pollution, and we’ll make
them publicly available online to help communities measure their own health.
Implement an equity screen for climate investments. Identifying
at-risk communities is only the first step. The Green New Deal will involve
deploying trillions of dollars to transform the way we source and use energy.
In doing so, the government must prioritize resources to support vulnerable
communities and remediate historic injustices. My friend Governor Jay Inslee
rightly challenged us to fund the most vulnerable communities first, and
both New York and California have
passed laws to direct funding specifically to frontline and fenceline
communities. The federal government should do the same. I’ll direct one-third
of my proposed climate investment into the most vulnerable communities — a
commitment that would funnel at least $1 trillion into these areas over the
Strengthen tools to mitigate environmental harms. Signed
into law in 1970, the National Environmental Policy Act provides the original
authority for many of our existing environmental protections. But even as
climate change has made it clear that we must eliminate our dependence on
fossil fuels, the Trump Administration has tried to weaken NEPA with
the goal of expediting even more fossil fuel infrastructure projects. At the
same time, the Trump Administration has moved to devalue the
consideration of climate impacts in all federal decisions. This is entirely
unacceptable in the face of the climate emergency our world is facing. As
president, I would mandate that all federal agencies consider climate impacts
in their permitting and rulemaking processes. Climate action needs to be mainstreamed
in everything the federal government does. But we also need a standard that
requires the government to do more than merely “assess” the environmental
impact of proposed projects — we need to mitigate negative environmental
Beyond that, a Warren Administration will do more to give the people who live
in a community a greater say in what is sited there — too often today, local
desires are discounted or disregarded. And when Tribal Nations are involved,
projects should not proceed unless developers have obtained the free, prior and
informed consent of the tribal governments concerned. I’ll use the full extent
of my executive authority under NEPA to protect these communities and give them
a voice in the process. And I’ll fight to improve the law to reflect the
realities of today’s climate crisis.
Build wealth in frontline communities. People of
color are more likely to live in neighborhoods that are vulnerable to climate
change risks or where they’re subject to environmental hazards like pollution.
That’s not a coincidence — decades of racist housing policy and officially
sanctioned segregation that denied people of color the opportunity to build
wealth also denied them the opportunity to choose the best neighborhood for
their families. Then, these same communities were targeted with the worst of
the worst mortgages before the financial crisis, while the government looked
the other way. My housing plan includes
a first-of-its-kind down-payment assistance program that provides grants to
long-term residents of formerly redlined communities so that they can buy homes
in the neighborhood of their choice and start to build wealth, beginning to
reverse that damage. It provides assistance to homeowners in these communities
who still owe more than their homes were worth, which can be used to preserve
their homes and revitalize their communities. These communities should have the
opportunity to lead us in the climate fight, and have access to the economic
opportunities created by the clean energy sector. With the right investments
and with community-led planning, we can lift up communities that have experienced
historic repression and racism, putting them on a path to a more resilient
Expand health care. People in frontline
communities disproportionately suffer from certain cancers and other illnesses
associated with environmental pollution. To make matters worse, they are less likely to have
access to quality health care. Under Medicare for All, everyone will have high
quality health care at a lower cost, allowing disadvantaged communities to get
lifesaving services. And beyond providing high quality coverage for all, the
simplified Medicare for All system will make it easier for the federal
government to quickly tailor health care responses to specific environmental
disasters in affected communities when they occur.
Research equity. For years we’ve invested in
broad-based strategies that are intended to lift all boats, but too often leave
communities of color behind. True justice calls for more than
‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions — instead we need targeted strategies that take
into account the unique challenges individual frontline communities face. I’ve
proposed a historic $400 billion investment
in clean energy research and development. We’ll use that funding to research
place-based interventions specifically targeting the communities that need more
No Worker Left Behind
The climate crisis will leave no one untouched. But it also
represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity: to create millions of
good-paying American jobs in clean and renewable energy, infrastructure, and
manufacturing; to unleash the best of American innovation and creativity; to
rebuild our unions and create real progress and justice for workers; and to
directly confront the racial and economic inequality embedded in our fossil
The task before us is huge and demands all of us to act. It
will require massive retrofits to our nation’s infrastructure and our
manufacturing base. It will also require readjusting our economic approach to
ensure that communities of color and others who have been systematically harmed
from our fossil fuel economy are not left further behind during the transition
to clean energy.
But it is also an opportunity. We’ll need millions of
workers: people who know how to build things and manufacture them; skilled and
experienced contractors to plan and execute large construction and engineering
projects; and training and joint labor management apprenticeships to ensure a
continuous supply of skilled, available workers. This can be a great moment of
national unity, of common purpose, of lives transformed for the better. But we
cannot succeed in fighting climate change unless the people who have the skills
to get the job done are in the room as full partners.
We also cannot fight climate change with a low-wage economy.
Workers should not be forced to make an impossible choice between fossil fuel
industry jobs with superior wages and benefits and green economy jobs that pay
far less. For too long, there has been a tension between transitioning to a
green economy and creating good, middle class, union jobs. In a Warren
Administration we will do both: creating good new jobs through investments in a
clean economy coupled with the strongest possible protections for workers. For
instance, my Green Manufacturing plan
makes a $1.5 trillion procurement commitment to domestic manufacturing
contingent on companies providing fair wages, paid family and medical leave,
fair scheduling practices, and collective bargaining rights. Similarly,
my 100% Clean Energy Plan will
require retrofitting our nation’s buildings, reengineering our electrical grid,
and adapting our manufacturing base — creating good, union jobs, with
prevailing wages determined through collective bargaining, for millions of
skilled and experienced workers.
Our commitment to a Green New Deal is a commitment to a
better future for the working people of our country. And it starts with a
real commitment to workers from the person sitting in the White House: I will
fight for your job, your family, and your community like I would my own. But
there’s so much more we can do to take care of America’s workers before,
during, and after this transition. Here are a few ways we can start:
Honor our commitment to fossil fuel workers. Coal
miners, oil rig workers, pipeline builders and millions of other workers have
given their life’s blood to build the infrastructure that powered the American
economy throughout the 20th century. In return, they deserve more than
platitudes — and if we expect them to use their skills to help reengineer
America, we owe them a fair day’s pay for the work we need them to do. I’m
committed to providing job training and guaranteed wage and benefit parity for
workers transitioning into new industries. And for those Americans who choose
not to find new employment and wish to retire with dignity, we’ll ensure full
financial security, including promised pensions and early retirement
Defend worker pensions, benefits, and secure retirement. Together,
we will ensure that employers and our government honor the promises they made
to workers in fossil fuel industries. I’ve fought for years to protect pensions
and health benefits for retired coal workers, and I’ll continue fighting to
maintain the solvency of multi-employer pension plans. As president, I’ll
protect those benefits that fossil fuel workers have earned. My plan to empower American workers commits
to defending pensions, recognizing the value of defined-benefit pensions, and
pushing to pass the Butch-Lewis Act to
create a loan program for the most financially distressed pension plans in the
country. And my Social Security plan
would increase benefits by $200 a month for every beneficiary, lifting nearly 5
million seniors out of poverty and expanding benefits for workers with
disabilities and their families.
Create joint safety-health committees. In 2016, more than 50,000 workers
died from occupational-related diseases. And since the beginning of his
administration, Trump has rolled back rules and regulations that limit exposure to certain
chemicals and requirements around facility safety inspections,
further jeopardizing workers and the community around them. When workers have
the power to keep themselves safe, they make their communities safer too. A
Warren Administration will reinstate the work safety rules and regulations
Trump eliminated, and will work to require large companies to create joint
safety-health committees with representation from workers and impacted communities.
Force fossil fuel companies to honor their obligations. As
a matter of justice, we should tighten bankruptcy laws to prevent coal and
other fossil fuel companies from evading their responsibility to their workers
and to the communities that they have helped to pollute. In the Senate, I have fought to
improve the standing of coal worker pensions and benefits in bankruptcy — as
president, I will work with Congress to pass legislation to make these changes
And as part of our commitment, we must take care of all
workers, including those who were left behind decades ago by the fossil fuel
economy. Although Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal is the inspiration for this
full scale mobilization of the federal government to defeat the climate crisis,
it was not perfect. The truth is that too often, many New Deal agencies and
policies were tainted by structural racism. And as deindustrialization led to
prolonged disinvestment, communities of color were too often both the first to
lose their job base, and the first place policymakers thought of to dump the
refuse of the vanished industries. Now there is a real risk that poor
communities dependent on carbon fuels will be asked to bear the costs of
fighting climate change on their own. We must take care not to replicate the
failings and limitations of the original New Deal as we implement a Green New
Deal and transition our economy to 100% clean energy. Instead we need to build
an economy that works for every American — and leaves no one behind.
Prioritizing Environmental Justice at the Highest Levels
As we work to enact a Green New Deal, our commitment to
environmental justice cannot be an afterthought — it must be central to our
efforts to fight back against climate change. That means structuring our
government agencies to ensure that we’re centering frontline and fenceline
communities in implementing a just transition. It means ensuring that the most
vulnerable have a voice in decision-making that impacts their communities, and
direct access to the White House itself. Here’s how we’ll do that:
Elevate environmental justice at the White House.
I’ll transform the Council on Environmental Quality into a Council on Climate
Action with a broader mandate, including making environmental justice a
priority. I’ll update the 1994 executive order that
directed federal agencies to make achieving environmental justice part of their
missions, and revitalize the
cabinet-level interagency council on environmental justice. We will raise the
National Environmental Justice Advisory Council to report directly to the White
House, bringing in the voices of frontline community leaders at the highest
levels. And I will bring these leaders to the White House for an environmental
justice summit within my first 100 days in office, to honor the contributions
of frontline activists over decades in this fight and to listen to ideas for
how we can make progress.
Empower the EPA to support frontline communities. The
Trump Administration has proposed dramatic cuts to
the EPA, including to its Civil Rights office, and threatened to eliminate EPA’s
Office of Environmental Justice entirely. I’ll restore and grow both offices,
including by expanding the Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE)
and Environmental Justice Small Grant programs. We’ll condition these
competitive grant funds on the development of state- and local-level
environmental justice plans, and ensure that regional EPA offices stay open to
provide support and capacity. But it’s not just a matter of size. Historically,
EPA’s Office of Civil Rights has rejected nine out of ten cases
brought to it for review. In a Warren Administration, we will aggressively
pursue cases of environmental discrimination wherever they occur.
Bolster the CDC to play a larger role in environmental
justice. The links between industrial pollution and negative public health
outcomes are clear. A Warren
Administration will fully fund the Center for Disease Control’s environmental
health programs, such as childhood lead poisoning prevention, and community
health investigations. We will also provide additional grant funding for
independent research into environmental health effects.
Diminish the influence of Big Oil. Powerful
corporations rig the system to work for themselves, exploiting and influencing
the regulatory process and placing industry representatives in positions of
decision-making authority within agencies. My plan to end Washington corruption would
slam shut the revolving door between industry and government, reducing
industry’s ability to influence the regulatory process and ensuring that the
rules promulgated by our environmental agencies reflect the needs of
communities, not the fossil fuel industry.
Right to Affordable Energy and Clean Water
Nearly one-third of
American households struggle to pay their energy bills, and Native American,
Black, and Latinx households are more likely to be energy insecure. Renters are
also often disadvantaged by landlords unwilling to invest in safer buildings,
weatherization, or cheaper energy. And clean energy adoption is unequal along
racial lines, even after accounting for differences in wealth. I have a plan to move the
United States to 100% clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy in electricity
generation by 2035 — but energy justice must be an integral part of our
transition to clean energy. Here’s what that means:
Address high energy cost burdens. Low-income
families, particularly in rural areas, are spending too much of their
income on energy, often the result of older or mobile homes that are not
weatherized or that lack energy efficient upgrades. I’ve committed to meet
Governor Inslee’s goal of retrofitting 4% of U.S. buildings annually to
increase energy efficiency — and we’ll start that national initiative by
prioritizing frontline and fenceline communities. In addition, my housing plan
includes over $10 billion in competitive grant programs for communities that invest
in well-located affordable housing — funding that can be used for
modernization and weatherization of homes, infrastructure, and schools. It also
targets additional funding to tribal governments, rural communities, and
jurisdictions — often majority minority — where homeowners are still
struggling with the aftermath of the
2008 housing crash. Energy retrofits can be a large source of green jobs, and
I’m committed to ensuring that these are good jobs, with full federal labor
protections and the right to organize.
Support community power. Consumer-owned energy
cooperatives, many of which were established to electrify rural areas during
the New Deal, serve an estimated 42 million people
across our country. While some co-ops are beginning to transition their assets
to renewable energy resources, too many are locked
into long-term contracts that make them dependent on coal and other dirty fuels
for their power. To speed the transition to clean energy, my administration
will offer assistance to write down debt and restructure loans to help
cooperatives get out of long-term coal contracts, and provide additional low-
or no-cost financing for zero-carbon electricity generation and transmission
projects for cooperatives via the Rural Utilities Service. I’ll work with
Congress to extend and expand clean energy bonds to
allow community groups and nonprofits without tax revenue to access clean
energy incentives. I’ll also provide dedicated support for the four Power Marketing
Administrations, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Appalachian Regional
Commission to help them build publicly-owned clean energy assets and deploy
clean power to help communities transition off fossil fuels. Accelerating the
transition to clean energy will both reduce carbon emissions, clean up our
air, and help bring down rural consumers’ utility bills.
Protect local equities. Communities that host large
energy projects are entitled to receive a share of the benefits. But too often,
large energy companies are offered millions in tax subsidies to locate in a
particular area — without any commitment that they will make a corresponding
commitment in that community. Community Benefit Agreements can help address
power imbalances between project developers and low-income communities by
setting labor, environmental, and transparency standards before work begins.
I’ll make additional federal subsidies or tax benefits for large utility
projects contingent on strong Community Benefits Agreements, which should
include requirements for prevailing wages and collective bargaining rights. And
I’ll insist on a clawback provision if a company doesn’t hold up its end of the
deal. If developers work with communities to ensure that everyone benefits from
clean energy development, we will be able to reduce our emissions faster.
It’s simple: access to clean water is a basic human right.
Water quality is an issue in both urban and rural communities. In rural areas,
for example, runoff into rivers and streams by Big Agriculture has poisoned local
drinking water. In urban areas, lack of infrastructure investment has resulted
in lead and other poisons seeping
into aging community water systems. We need to take action to protect our
drinking water. Here’s how we can do that:
Invest in our nation’s public water systems.
America’s water is a public asset and should be owned by and for the public. A
Warren Administration will end decades of disinvestment and privatization of
our nation’s water system — our government at every level should invest in
safe, affordable drinking water for all of us.
Increase and enforce water quality standards. Our
government should enforce strict regulations to ensure clean water is available
to all Americans. I’ll restore the Obama-era water rule that protected our
lakes, rivers, and streams, and the drinking water they provide. We also need a
strong and nationwide safe drinking water standard that covers PFAS and other
chemicals. A Warren Administration will fully enforce Safe Drinking Water Act
standards for all public water systems. I’ll aggressively regulate chemicals
that make their way into our water supply, including by designating PFAS as a
Fund access to clean water. Our clean drinking water
challenge goes beyond lead, and beyond Flint and Newark. To respond, a Warren
Administration will commit to fully capitalize the Drinking Water State
Revolving Fund and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to refurbish old water
infrastructure and support ongoing water treatment operations and maintenance,
prioritizing the communities most heavily impacted by inadequate water
infrastructure. In rural areas, I’ll increase funding for the Conservation
Stewardship Program to $15 billion annually, empowering family farmers to help
limit the agricultural runoff that harms local wells and water systems. To
address lead specifically, we will establish a lead abatement grant program
with a focus on schools and daycare centers, and commit to remediating lead in
all federal buildings. We’ll provide a Lead Safety Tax Credit for homeowners to
invest in remediation. And a Warren Administration will also fully fund IDEA
and other support programs that help children with developmental challenges as
a result of lead exposure.
Protecting the Most Vulnerable During Climate-Related
In 2018, the U.S. was home to the world’s three costliest environmental
catastrophes. And while any community can be hit by a hurricane, flood, extreme
weather, or fire, the impact of these kinds of disasters are particularly
devastating for low-income communities, people with disabilities,
and people of color. Take
Puerto Rico for example. When Hurricane Maria hit the island, decades of racism
and neglect were multiplied by the government’s failure to prepare
and Trump’s racist post-disaster response —
resulting in the deaths of at least 3,000 Puerto
Ricans and long-term harm to many more. Even as we fight climate change, we
must also prepare for its impacts — building resiliency not just in some
communities, but everywhere. Here’s how we can start to do that:
Invest in pre-disaster mitigation. For every dollar
invested in mitigation, the government and communities save $6 overall. But
true to form, the Trump Administration has proposed to steep cuts to
FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program, abandoning communities just as the risk
of climate-related disasters is on the rise. As president, I’ll invest in
programs that help vulnerable communities build resiliency by quintupling this
Better prepare for flood events. When I visited
Pacific Junction, Iowa, I saw scenes of devastation: crops ruined for the
season, cars permanently stalled, a water line 7 or 8 feet high in residents’
living rooms. And many residents in Pacific Junction fear that this could
happen all over again next year.
Local governments rely on FEMA’s flood maps, but some of these maps haven’t
been updated in decades. In my first
term as president, I will direct FEMA to fully update flood maps with
forward-looking data, prioritizing and including frontline communities in this
process. We’ll raise standards for new construction, including by reinstating
the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard. And we’ll make it easier for
vulnerable residents to move out of flood-prone properties — including by
buying back those properties for low-income homeowners at a value that will
allow them to relocate, and then tearing down the flood-prone properties, so we
can protect everyone.
Mitigate wildfire risk. We must also invest in
improved fire mapping and prevention programs. In a Warren Administration, we
will dramatically improve fire mapping and prevention by investing in advanced
modeling with a focus on helping the most vulnerable — incorporating not only
fire vulnerability but community demographics. We will prioritize these data to
invest in land management, particularly near the most vulnerable communities,
supporting forest restoration, lowering fire risk, and creating jobs all at
once. We will also invest in microgrid technology, so that we can de-energize
high-risk areas when required without impacting the larger community’s energy
supply. And as president, I will collaborate with Tribal governments on land
management practices to reduce wildfires, including by incorporating
traditional ecological practices and exploring co-management and the return of
public resources to indigenous protection wherever possible.
Prioritize at-risk populations in disaster planning and
response. When the most deadly fire in California’s history struck the town
of Paradise last November, a majority of the
victims were disabled or elderly. People with disabilities face increased difficulties in
evacuation assistance and accessing critical medical care. For people who are
homeless, disasters exacerbate existing
challenges around housing and health. And fear of deportation can deter undocumented
people from contacting emergency services for help evacuating or from going to
an emergency shelter. As president, I will strengthen rules to require disaster
response plans to uphold the rights of vulnerable populations. In my immigration plan, I
committed to putting in place strict guidelines to protect sensitive locations,
including emergency shelters. We’ll also develop best practices at the federal
level to help state and local governments develop plans for at-risk communities
— including for extreme heat or cold — and require that evacuation services
and shelters are fully accessible to people with disabilities. During
emergencies, we will work to ensure that critical information is shared in ways
that reflect the diverse needs of people with disabilities and other at-risk
communities, including through ASL and Braille and languages spoken in the
community. We will establish a National Commission on Disability Rights and
Disasters, ensure that federal disaster spending is ADA compliant, and support
people with disabilities in disaster planning. We will make certain that
individuals have ongoing access to health care services if they have to leave
their community or if there is a disruption in care. And we will ensure
that a sufficient number of disability specialists are present in state
emergency management teams and FEMA’s disaster response corps.
Ensure a just and equitable recovery. In the
aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,
disaster scammers and profiteers swarmed, capitalizing on others’ suffering to
make a quick buck. And after George W. Bush suspended the
Davis-Bacon Act, the doors were opened for contractors to under-pay and subject
workers to dangerous working conditions, particularly low-income and immigrant
workers. As president, I’ll put strong protections in place to ensure that
federal tax dollars go toward community recovery, not to line the pockets of
contractors. And we must maintain high standards for workers even when disaster
Studies show that the white and wealthy receive
more federal disaster aid, even though they are most able to financially
withstand a disaster. This is particularly true when it comes to housing —
FEMA’s programs are designed to protect homeowners, even as homeownership
has slipped out of reach for
an increasing number of Americans. As president, I will reform post-disaster
housing assistance to better protect renters, including a commitment to a
minimum of one-to-one replacement for any damaged federally-subsidized
affordable housing, to better protect low-income families. I will work with
Congress to amend the Stafford Act to make grant funding more flexible to allow
families and communities to rebuild in more resilient ways. And we will
establish a competitive grant program, based on the post-Sandy Rebuild by Design pilot,
to offer states and local governments the opportunity to compete for additional
funding for creative resilience projects.
Under a Warren Administration, we will monitor post-disaster recovery to help
states and local governments better understand the long-term consequences and
effectiveness of differing recovery strategies, including how to address climate gentrification,
to ensure equitable recovery for all communities. We’ll center a right to
return for individuals who have been displaced during a disaster and prioritize
the voices of frontline communities in the planning of their return or
relocation. And while relocation should be a last resort, when it occurs, we
must improve living standards and keep communities together whenever possible.
Holding Polluters Accountable
In Manchester, Texas, Hurricane Harvey’s damage wasn’t
apparent until after the storm had passed — when a thick, chemical smell
started wafting through the majority Latinx community, which is surrounded by
nearly 30 refineries and
chemical plants. A tanker failure had released 1,188 pounds of
benzene into the air, one of at least one hundred area leaks that happened in
Harvey’s aftermath. But because regulators had turned off air
quality and toxic monitoring in anticipation of the storm, the leaks went
unnoticed and the community uninformed.
This should have never been allowed to happen. But
Manchester is also subject to 484,000 pounds of
toxic chemical leaks on an average year. That’s not just a tragedy — it’s an
outrage. We must hold polluters accountable for their role in ongoing, systemic
damage in frontline communities. As president, I will use all my authorities to
hold companies accountable for their role in the climate crisis. Here’s how we
can do that:
Exercise all the oversight tools of the federal
government. A Warren Administration will encourage the EPA and Department
of Justice to aggressively go after corporate polluters, particularly in cases
of environmental discrimination. We need real consequences for corporate
polluters that break our environmental law. That means steep fines, which we
will reinvest in impacted communities. And under my Corporate Executive Accountability
Act, we’ll press for criminal penalties for executives when their
companies hurt people through criminal negligence.
Use the power of the courts. Thanks to a Supreme
Court decision, companies are
often let completely off the hook, even when their operations inflict harm on
thousands of victims each year. I’ll work with Congress to create a private
right of action for environmental harm at the federal level, allowing individuals
and communities impacted by environmental discrimination to sue for damages and
hold corporate polluters accountable.
Reinstitute the Superfund Waste Tax. There are over 1300 remaining
Superfund sites across the country, many located in or adjacent to frontline
communities. So-called “orphan” toxic waste clean-ups were originally funded by
a series of excise taxes on the petroleum and chemical industries. But thanks
to Big Oil and other industry lobbyists, when that tax authority expired in
1995 it was not renewed. Polluters must pay for the consequences of their
actions — not leave them for the communities to clean up. I’ll work with
Congress to reinstate and then triple the Superfund tax, generating needed
revenue to clean up the mess.
Hold the finance industry accountable for its role in the
climate crisis. Financial institutions and the insurance industry underwrite
and fund fossil fuel investments around the world, and can play a key role in
stopping the climate crisis. Earlier this year, Chubb became the
first U.S. insurer to commit to stop insuring coal projects, a welcome
development. Unfortunately, many banks and insurers seem to be moving in the
opposite direction. In fact, since the Paris Agreement was signed, U.S. banks
including JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Bank of America have
actually increased their
fossil fuel investments. And there is evidence that big banks are replicating a tactic they
first employed prior to the 2008 crash — shielding themselves from climate
losses by selling the mortgages most at risk from climate impacts to Fannie Mae
and Freddie Mac to shift the burden off their books and onto taxpayers at a
To accelerate the transition to clean energy, my Climate Risk Disclosure Act would
require banks and other companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions
and price their exposure to climate risk into their valuations, raising public
awareness of just how dependent our economy is on fossil fuels. And let me be
clear: in a Warren Administration, they will no longer be allowed to shift that
burden to the rest of us.
They came together in celebration, not anger or fear. The common thread among the 150,000 who marched, coming from around the world and across the country, and the estimated 2.5 million who watched along the WorldPride NYC 2019 parade route: Free to be me.
The parade, which took eight hours to complete and was
estimated to be the largest Pride event in history, was particularly poignant,
honoring the 50th anniversary since the Stonewall Uprising, which
are considered the trigger to the modern LGBTQ movement.
Jim Foray, among the Grand Marshals at the parade, was there
that night. He was living just a block away and recalled the Stonewall as a
“sleazy bar where we were grateful and exploited.” The bar, reputedly owned by
the Mafia, was regularly raided by the police.
What a difference 50 years has made, noted Julian Sanjivan,
NYC Pride March Director. “They had no way of knowing what the next 50 years
would bring, no way to know they were starting a global movement, changing
hearts and minds everywhere.” And who could have expected an openly gay and
married man, a mayor from South Bend, Indiana, Peter Buttigieg, running for
Fear and loathing has given way to pride and joy.
Five Grand Marshals lead both the 50th NYC Pride March: the cast of POSE, represented by Dominique Jackson (Elektra), Indya Moore (Angel), and MJ Rodriguez (Blanca); Phyll Opoku-Gyimah; Gay Liberation Front; The Trevor Project and Monica Helms.
Phyll Opoku-Gyimah is the nucleus of the award-winning
celebration and protest that is UK Black Pride. Widely known as Lady Phyll –
partly due to her decision to reject an MBE in the New Year’s Honours’ list, to
protest Britain’s role in formulating anti-LGBTQ+ penal codes across its empire
– she is a senior official at the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) trade
union as the Head of Equality and Learning. She’s a community builder and
organizer; a Kaleidoscope Trust Trustee; an Albert Kennedy Trust patron; Diva
Magazine columnist, and public speaker focusing on race, gender, sexuality and
Gay Liberation Front was the very first LGBTQ activist
organization formed after the Stonewall Rebellion. The courageous members of
GLF fought to give political shape and direction to a whole new generation of
LGBTQ militancy that spread with unprecedented vigor and impact across the
nation and the world.
The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention
and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender,
queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) young people. The organization works to save
young lives by providing support through free and confidential programs,
including TrevorLifeline, TrevorText, and TrevorChat. They also run
TrevorSpace, the world’s largest safe space social networking site for LGBTQ
youth, and operate innovative education, research, and advocacy programs.
Monica Helms is a transgender activist, author, and veteran
of the United States Navy, having served on two submarines. She is also the
creator of the Transgender Pride Flag, in 1999, and subsequently donated the
original flag to the Smithsonian Institution in 2014.
It was indeed a demonstration of world pride – there were
marchers from Copenhagen, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Portugal,
Australia, Holland, and so many other places.
American cities and states were represented as well, from
coast to coast and in between – from Palm Beach and Orlando to Palm Springs,
San Francisco and Venice (California), Austin to Washington DC, Brooklyn,
Boston, even Native American tribes.
Here are highlights from the WorldPride NYC 2019:
A clear sign of the changing times was the outpouring of
elected and government officials who joined the march. New York State Governor
Andrew Cuomo used the occasion to sign into law legislation banning the gay
and trans panic legal defense, a key component of his 2019 Justice
The venue for Senator Elizabeth Warren’s rally was strategic for her message: a former warehouse with dank walls now used for an entertainment space in Long Island City, the neighborhood that booted Amazon, despite its promise to bring 25,000 jobs, in exchange for a $3 billion tax incentive.
The message the declared 2020 Democratic candidate for president brought to the 600 eager supporters was that it is time to break up the high-tech companies that have come to wield out-sized economic power more like government, dictating demands and reclaim government for the people.
“We have these giant corporations — do I have to tell
that to people in Long Island City? — that think they can roll over everyone,”
she said, comparing Amazon to “The Hunger Game.”
“Giant corporations shouldn’t be able to buy out
competition. Competition has to be able to thrive and grow.”
“Who does government work for? Just the richest people and
corporations? I want government that works for the people.”
“I spent whole life wondering what happening to middle
class, why so much rockier, steeper, and even rockier and steeper for people of
color – what has gone wrong in America.
“Our government works great for giant drug companies, not for people needing prescription drugs; for giant oil companies, not for people who see climate change bearing down; great for payday lenders, not for people of color and communities and poor people who are targeted, whose lives are turned upside down.
“It’s corruption plain and simple and we need to call it
“Whichever issue brought you here – income gap, climate change, affordable child care, housing – whatever issue brought you here, I guarantee decisions made in Washington that directly touch – runs straight through corruption in Washington…. We need big structural change.”
Her prescription: change the
rules of government, of the economy, of politics:
Where to start? Change the rules
of government by taking corruption head on.
“I introduced the biggest anti-corruption bill since
Watergate; it’s big, long, complex, but here are a few pieces:
“End lobbying as we know it. Stop the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington; make Supreme Court follow the basic rules of ethics. Anyone who wants to run for federal office, must release their taxes.
“We need workers to have more power, we need stronger
unions. Unions built American middle class and will rebuild the American middle
Warren is advocating an ultra millionaire’s tax: imposing 2%
tax for those with over $50 million in assets.
That means the top 0.1% -75,000 households. She estimates that would
generate $2.4 trillion.
In what sounds like an expansion of Obama’s
oft-taken-out-of-context line, “You didn’t build that,” Warren justifies the
wealth tax saying, “I’m tired of free loading billionaires. You built (or
inherited) your fortune, good for you, but you built it using workers we educated,
roads and bridges we paid to build, police – all helped. So yeah, you built a
great fortune, so give a little back to the American people (who enabled you).
It’s a property tax, she said, not unlike the property tax
that any homeowner, farmer, condo owner all pay, but includes the Picassos,
diamonds and yachts.
What would it do? It would fund universal child care, and
still have billions left over.
To change the rules of politics and protect our democracy, she said, “I want to see a constitutional amendment to protect the right to vote and make sure every vote gets counted. Overturn Citizens United.” (adding that she isn’t taking any corporate PAC money, but is depending on grassroots donations, ElizabethWarren.com.)
“I don’t go to closed door meetings with millionaires. I’m
here with you.”
“My father was a janitor but his daughter got a chance to be
a teacher, a college professor, a Senator and a candidate for President of the United
States. I believe in opportunity because I’ve lived it. I want an American where
every child gets a chance to build a future.
“This is our moment. Dream big. Let’s win.”
She then took questions (the questioners were picked at
Asked her view of Governor Andrew Cuomo trying to woo Amazon back after local
progressives including State Senator Michael Gianaris, who introduced her at
the rally, she said, “This is like ‘Hunger Games’ – it is
not just the enormous economic power, but the political power they wield.
“A handful of companies spend $50 million lobbying
Washington – a great return on investment if they get to keep Washington from
enforcing regulations, antitrust laws, hold back oversight. That’s not how
America is supposed to work. Corporate power… and billionaire power, all
those who make their voices heard through money. They fund the think tanks that
come to, predetermined conclusions, the public relations firms, the soft ads on
TV, controlling government, they tilt the playing field over and over against
She reflected that she went to see Trump being sworn in, and
realized that with control of the White House and both houses of Congress, the
Republicans could have swept away health care and Medicare “by Tuesday.” “But
the next day, there was the biggest protest in the history of the world.”
“I want to rein in big tech. That won’t happen by talking
inside the Beltway, but in rooms like this.”
Asked whether her wealth
tax would cause billionaires like Trump to simply move outside the US, she
quipped, “That would be a bad thing?” but explained the 2% wealth tax would be
on all property where it is held, so a yacht in the Caribbean would be taxed. More tax treaties mean it can be tracked. The
IRS (now underfunded and understaffed) would step up enforcement. Even with a
15% cheat factor, you still get nearly $3 trillion in revenue. As for moving
and renouncing US citizenship to avoid the tax? There would be a 40% exit
“You built your fortune here, you owe something to the
Asked about addressing homelessness
and the lack of affordable housing, Warren said, “It’s a matter of values.
In the richest country in the history of the world, people shouldn’t be
sleeping in the street. I have a plan, a housing plan, but the first step is to
diagnose the problem: Why has the cost of housing gone up? Wages, adjusted for
inflation for four decades are flat, but housing costs have risen by
two-thirds. That puts a squeeze on families.”
She said that over the years, government has withdrawn investment in housing, while private developers have build the more profitable mcmansions and luxury high rises. “There’s been an increase in housing at the top but no increase for middle class and down. The federal government is not making investment in housing for poor, working poor and middle class. Meanwhile, across America, the housing stock has deteriorated, shrinking in size, but the population is expanding, so people are paying more and more for less and less.
“The answer: build more housing. I want to build 3.2 million
new housing units all across the country. That would decrease rents by 10%. I
want more housing for purchase, so families can build equity over time.
“Housing is how working families have built wealth
generation after generation – paying off the mortgage, and living on Social
Security, grandma can live with the family, the home passes on wealth to the
“It is no surprise that for decades, from the 1930s, federal
government invested in subsidized housing for white people, but discriminated
against blacks. Red lined areas where federal government would block mortgages,
so that generation after generation [was deprived of home ownership to build
wealth]. In 1960, housing discrimination was legal, while the federal
government subsidized whites and discriminated against black neighborhoods. Then,
the gap between white and black home ownership was 27 points.
“Then civil rights made housing, voting discrimination
illegal, and we see black middle class recover.
“But then the big banks came along – looked to black, brown
home owners’ equity. They targeted black and brown people for the nastiest
mortgages – Wells Fargo, Bank of America. Greed.
“Today, the gap between white and black home ownership is 30
points. Race matters in America.
“My housing bill has something we haven’t seen anywhere
else: in formerly red-lined areas, first time home buyers or those who lost
their homes during the housing crash, will get assistance to buy again.”
Asked whether she would support ending the filibuster which
the Republican minority used to block progressive legislation during the Obama
administration, to block his judicial appointments, even the Merrick Garland
Supreme Court nomination, she said (not too coyly): “It’s all on the table,
baby. I’m on record for filibuster reform. The Republicans used filibuster to
block judicial nominees, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection
Board, the National Labor Relations Board. “Republicans get to do what they
want when they’re in power, and when we are, we drink a lot of tea. It’s all on
“I get that things I’m asking for all are hard – attacking corruption,
changing the rules of the economy, democracy. I get that some people earn more
or less, but everyone should have an equal share of democracy.”
People, she said, saved the Consumer Financial Protection Board, which she created after the
2008 financial collapse. “The people saved it, and it’s already forced the
biggest banks to return $12 billion to the people they cheated.
“I’m calling for big structural change, but you don’t get
what you don’t fight for,” she said, citing the abolitionists, suffragettes,
union organizers, the foot soldiers of civil rights, gay rights activists. “They
were all told, ‘it’s too hard, give up now, and yet, every one of them stayed,
fought, organized, persisted [she said to big cheers], and changed. This is our
moment to change.
“Dream big, fight hard, and let’s win.”
In an already crowded field of candidates – even the
progressive faction – Warren is the only one who has clearly spelled out policy
proposals and the underlying rationale, the powerful statistics of growing
inequality, that she has studied and worked to change for years to level the
playing field, “make government work for you”: campaign finance reform and
government reform; housing; tax reform.
And in this venue, it
was fascinating to see how she could be so factual, so academic, but so
enthusiastic and personable, her
audience asked for more detail about how she would address the critical
shortfall in affordable housing, even
taking her by surprise.
The evening was organized a little like a townhall, with Warren moving freely about a stage in front of a giant American flag, taking questions, and then at the end, offering to stay as long as necessary so anyone who wanted to take a photo with her could get their chance.
Tens of thousands took to the streets of New York City on Saturday, January 19, 2019 for the third annual Women’s March organized by the Women’s March Alliance, calling for action on a Woman’s Agenda that encompasses everything from pay parity, paid parental leave and reproductive freedom, to immigration reform, gun violence prevention, climate action, criminal justice reform – in other words, the gamut of social, political, environmental and economic justice. (See also With Cry of ‘Your Voice Your Power,’ Alliance Mounts 3rd Annual Women’s March on NYC Jan. 19)
The marchers got particularly animated outside of
Trump Tower Hotel on Central Park West, chanting “Shame, Shame, Shame,”
extending a finger, and waving placards calling for “Indict, Impeach, Imprison.”
The protesters use their bodies as message boards. Here are highlights: