Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) praised civil rights activist Al Sharpton as a “man of courage” for organizing the “Justice For All March” and demanded Congress give the Justice Department more authority in the aftermath of the recent deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
“There are those who question why we are here and I want to let them know that we are here for the same reasons that the Pilgrims came to Plymouth Rock. We are here for the same reason that people threw tea into the Boston Harbor,” Green said to the crowd.
“We’re here for the same reason that Rosa Parks took a seat on a bus in a racist southern town. We’re here for the same reason that Dr. King marched from Selma to Montgomery.”
Green said the Congressional Black Caucus has heard the message of the protesters and supports legislative action.
“I want you to know the honorable Marsha Fudge, who is the chairperson of the Congressional Black Congress, has made it perspicuously clear that we will take up legislation to bring about change in the way policing takes place in this country,” he said.
“We have Bobby Scott, who has just gotten a piece of legislation through Congress that will again require the reporting of deaths at the hands of the constabulary, the police, and we want to make sure that Congress gets an annual report of what’s happening to black people that are being policed in America.”
Green also said he supports requiring body cameras on police officers.
“That’s not enough. We must give the Justice Department the additional authority so that it can investigate every one of these questionable shootings. We must take it to the federal government so we can get a greater degree of transparency,” he said.
Sharpton also called for Congress to pass legislation that addresses police brutality.
“We need national legislation and intervention to save us from state grand juries that say it’s all right to choke people, even on tape, and you won’t bring them to court. It’s all right for prosecutors to have private queries, and if we question them, we are starting trouble,” Sharpton said.
“We’re here for three things. One, we need a law on judicial threshold. Why is the threshold so high for you to protect citizens and police matters? We’re not saying all police are bad. We’re not even saying most are bad. We’re not anti-police. We’re anti-brutality and the federal government must have a threshold to protect that,” he added.
Sharpton also said the Justice Department must have a division funded to deal with the issue of police brutality.
“Third, we must have the power of special prosecutors — not the local prosecutors. We cannot trust those that work together every day and depend on each other to do their work to have a non-conflicted inquiry of each other,” he said.
Sharpton predicted the media would distort what happened at the protest, underestimating the crowd that was a mix of African-Americans and white Americans of all ages.
“I’ve also been inspired today when I see young white kids holding up signs saying ‘black lives matter.’ I know the media won’t show that,” he said.
“My younger daughter gave me a slogan the other day. It says you may bury us, but you didn’t know you were burying seeds — when you bury us, we sprout up, and start blocking traffic. Our seeds grow in the disobedience; our seeds grow in the nonviolence. Bury us if you want but we’ll grow stronger and last longer,” he also said.
Joshua Williams from Ferguson, Mo., said protesters are trying to end police brutality.
“We are tired of being shot down in the streets like dogs. The police have a thing called a trigger finger. They can’t control their trigger finger when they see a black person in the street,” he told the crowd.
Tony Sanders said she was one of the protest organizers who shut down streets in Washington, D.C.
“This is not an issue of police brutality. This is a human rights issue,” she said.
Mary Pat Hector, national youth director at Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, said “until we see change we will make you uncomfortable because black people in this country have been uncomfortable far too long.”