WASHINGTON — As organizations that have spent years fighting for civil rights, racial justice, and the genuine safety that all of our communities deserve, we stand together to oppose a vote in the House of Representatives on a combined rule that would join together two issues that should not be dependent on one another — preventative measures, including a ban on assault weapons and evidence-based community safety solutions, and bills that would expand policing resources (i.e., the Invest to Protect Act and the COPS on the Beat Program Reauthorization and Parity Act).
In our respective fields, we have witnessed firsthand the incalculable toll of violence and harm — not only from gun violence, but also from policing systems that operate with impunity. From these experiences, we know exactly how urgent change is needed. And from these experiences, we also know that solutions are possible. But the vote on the combined rule that Congress is taking today, joining together police funding and an assault weapons ban, is not moving us toward this goal. By pairing these issues together, Congress is failing to understand that what communities plagued by gun violence need is not more resources toward law enforcement, but meaningful, evidence-based action on gun safety and community-based gun violence intervention. Overwhelming evidence indicates that policing and incarceration are ineffective tools for increasing community safety. Meanwhile, we have a wealth of evidence uplifting the role of violence interruption, health care access, affordable housing, non-carceral crisis response, youth mentorship, streetlights, community spaces, and other community-based solutions in dramatically reducing violence and harm. Moreover, lawmakers are using a rushed process that has given no member of Congress adequate time to review and fully evaluate the impacts of H.R.6375, COPS on the Beat Grant Program Reauthorization and Parity Act, and H.R. 6448, Invest to Protect Act being included.
We agree that Congress should pass a legislative package that makes bold, historic investments in bolstering community safety and preventing violence and harm. We believe, though, that this package should be grounded in evidence, reasoned deliberation, and a fair process that allows full consideration of each issue being addressed. The vote being considered today is not this process. For this reason, we respectfully request that Congress pull the police expansion bills from this legislative package, allowing the vote on an assault weapons ban, non-carceral crisis response, and evidence-based violence prevention to proceed.
American Civil Liberties Union
“Preservation of civil liberties demands that Congress should not rush this process,” said Cynthia W. Roseberry, deputy director of policy for the ACLU’s Justice Division. “The importance of considering potential harm is essential to ensure fairness, accountability, and safety for all communities.”
March For Our Lives
“Police violence is gun violence,” said Zeenat Yahya, director of policy at March For Our Lives. “We demand that congressional leaders pass urgent funding for community violence intervention immediately, but it's unconscionable to do that by forcing that funding to be connected to a wave of new funds for unaccountable police departments. We cannot force communities of color to bear the brunt of even more gun violence through policing. Black and Brown communities are not bargaining chips. Coupling these bills for the sake of a campaign soundbite is cynical and wrong.”
Color Of Change
“Which do you want more? Less school shootings or less crime in your neighborhood? The comparison is ridiculous, we need both,” said Rashad Robinson, president of Color Of Change, the largest online racial justice organization in the country. “Civil rights and gun violence prevention advocates are working together to build a holistically safe society, we won’t let congress trade safety in our schools with safety in our communities.”
Civil Rights Corps
“Congress can and must pass legislation like the People’s Response Act that makes bold investments in comprehensive policies that will truly keep our communities safe by addressing the actual root causes of harm, not doubling down on wasteful and unaccountable bureaucracy” said Alec Karakatsanis, founder and executive director of Civil Rights Corps. “This rushed legislative package, which combines two issues that do not belong together, undercuts this essential goal. The massive expansion of the surveillance and punishment bureaucracy is irresponsible, contrary to all available scientific evidence about what keeps us safe, and alarming at a time of increased criminalization of reproductive health. Congress must decouple this legislation.”
“Families want safe communities and safe schools. We must get this right. It cannot be rushed. This package will not get us the change we need. It gives us more of the same. This lack of transparency in pushing for police expansion without any accountability measures is not what communities have been asking for,” said Beatriz Beckford, national director at MomsRising. “Across the country, communities are looking at evidence-based approaches to reduce and prevent violence and harm. This legislation undermines and ignores sound data and puts essential resources into what data show as inefficient in increasing community safety. Instead we urge you to support thoughtful evidence-based policy efforts including the People’s Response Act and the Counseling Not Criminalization Act.”
“Any increase in police spending that does not include accountability and reform requirements is a betrayal to black communities suffering from intersecting public safety crises,” said Pastor Michael McBride, executive director of LIVE FREE. “Shame on democrats who seem to be willing to trade one set of voters for another by playing politics with public safety.”
“PUSH wholeheartedly supports investing deeply in disinvested and extracted from BIPOC and working class communities through community based public health, supportive and affordable housing, local hiring and training, public education and public transportation to address current and historic policies at the root,” said PUSH Buffalo’s Executive Director Rahwa Ghirmatzion.
Movement for Black Lives
“Black and brown communities, who have been on the frontlines of pushing meaningful criminal legal system reform, deserve for their demands for community investment legislation to be met with the care, integrity and thorough review that it deserves,” said Gina Clayton-Johnson, policy table lead, Movement for Black Lives. “Proposed investments in a holistic approach to community safety that is evidence-based and non punitive, is being undermined by its coupling with a rushed legislative package that calls for more money to police, a reactionary policy response that has never yielded safety for our communities.”
“We urge Congress to remove the police expansion bills from this legislative package, and embrace legislation that takes seriously the work required to end the harm and begin the healing from carceral systems, including the People’s Response Act, the Counselors not Criminalization Act, the Drug Policy Reform Act, and the Fix Clemency Act.”
“Vote no on new police funding,” said Judy Greene, executive director of Justice Strategies.
Faith For Black Lives
“This draconian piece of legislation to increase funding for policing fans the flame of anti-blackness and white supremacy as fascism permeates through society in America,” said Rev. Stephen A. Green, chair of Faith for Black Lives. “As faith leaders, we condemn legislators who vote to enact this harmful legislation that will inherently lead to an increase in violence towards the most vulnerable, Black, Brown and Poor People.”
Bend the Arc: Jewish Action
“Bend the Arc: Jewish action and thousands of progressive Jews across the county strongly oppose rushing through legislation that would provide additional funding to police—this is not what our communities need,” said Bend the Arc’s Executive Director Jason Kimelman-Block. We instead urge the House to pass legislation that would truly improve our communities’ safety like the People’s Response Act and The Mental Health Justice Act.”
Not Another Child Inc.
“Protect the peace of our communities!” said Oresa Napper-Williams, founder and executive director of Not Another Child Inc.
“More police won’t equal Public Safety—and every time Congress plays politics with police, Black and Brown and poor communities lose,” said Tamika D. Mallory, co-founder of Until Freedom. “The idea that we must combine an assault weapons ban with policing bills further demonstrates why it’s vital that frontline organizations who deal with community violence lead efforts to curb violence. We have to keep reminding folks that police rarely stop crime, in most if not all areas where police are increased, crime rises, and often - too often - police presence creates violence. We need accountability in policing. We need transparency in policing. We need demilitarization in policing. And what we need more of, is a true investment in violence interrupters, mental health services and healthy communities for our public safety. We need something different.”
Equal Justice USA
“There’s no question that Congress must invest in life-saving, community-driven violence intervention and prevention strategies,” said Will Simpson, director of violence reduction initiatives at Equal Justice USA. “This funding is integral to building safety and creating healing for Black and Brown communities. But we cannot hold those community-based support systems hostage for the sake of continued failed investments into policing that create no accountability for communities they are supposed to serve.”
“The answer to peace is not the presence of more police,” said DeJuana Thompson, founder of Woke Vote. “The hurried and hushed way this is being processed is further evidence we have to have a more transparent and righteous leadership.”