From Protest to Governance: Turning Rage into Actionable Policies
Throughout history, civil disobedience and protest have been at the forefront of change. Dating back to ancient Egypt, revolutions were marked by periods of civil unrest and protests. The effects of these revolutions ranged from minor changes in policies to overthrowing entire political regimes.
The Republic of Korea has its own rich history of civil disobedience. Every Saturday, a number of protests for a range of issues can be seen in Gwanghwamun. Some notable Korean protests and revolutions include the Tonghak Rebellion (1894), the March 1st Movement (1919), the Gwangju Uprising (1980), and the presidential protests of 2016.
In the United States, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests have successfully brought about policy changes on a local and federal scale. This article highlights some of those policy changes.
Breonna’s Law – June 12, 2020 (Louisville, KY)
On March 13th of this year, police shot and killed Louisville, Kentucky, EMT Breonna Taylor in her own home after entering on a no-knock warrant. Presuming this to be a home invasion, Breonna’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired his licensed gun in self-defense. Kenneth claims the police failed to identify themselves, as evidenced by his 911 call. Breonna Taylor was shot multiple times by police, who fired multiple rounds into the small apartment. Walker survived, but Breonna Taylor did not.
Taylor’s murder by police sparked public protests and petitions nationwide, the results of which have included the unanimous passing of Breonna’s Law in Louisville on June 12th. This law most notably marks the end of no-knock warrants and requires the use of body cams under much stricter guidelines. Under Breonna’s Law, body cams must be worn at all times. They must be activated 5 minutes prior to and deactivated no earlier than 5 minutes after any encounter. When entering a residence, police must be in uniform and must wait 15 seconds after announcing who they are before entering.
Breonna’s Law has inspired similar legislation on a state and federal level. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has proposed a federal ban on no-knock warrants with the The Justice for Breonna Taylor Act, which is on its way to congress. In the meantime, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Oregon are introducing legislation of their own to ban no-knock warrants.
Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act – February 26, 2020 (Federal)
Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black boy, was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 after being accused of “offending a white woman,” Carolyn Bryant. Till was tortured and killed by the woman’s husband and brother-in-law. Bryant later recanted her testimony against Till. Till’s murder is just one example of the realities of life for Black people under the Jim Crow segregation laws in the South. Nevertheless, it was an early catalyst for the civil rights movement.
The Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act will declare bodily injury on the basis of perceived race, color, religion, or nationality as a federal hate crime. Currently, hate crimes receive anywhere from 10 years to life in prison or the death penalty. The bill has been backed by the NAACP, and received a passing vote of 410-4 in the House of Representatives. This act is still being debated by Senator Rand Paul, who is attempting to weaken the bill in terms of definition. Hopefully, the Bill can be passed unanimously and made law by the end of the year.
The Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act was first put forward in January of 2019 as a revised version of the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act proposed in June of 2018. The 2016 presidential elections saw a sharp increase in hate crimes by white supremacist groups and the KKK, leading to an increase in BLM protests. Subsequently, the 2018 bill was put forward by Senator and current Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris, Senator Cory Booker, and Senator Tim Scott. Unfortunately, the bill was killed in congress.
The Minnesota Police Accountability Act – June 2020 (Minneapolis, MN)
By now, you’ve no doubt heard the name “George Floyd.” His murder was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back,” provoking demonstrations world-wide calling for an end to police brutality. On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers in a fatal choke hold while being arrested for suspected use of a counterfeit bill.
The Minnesota Police Accountability Act, born from widespread protests and signed by Governor Walz on July 24th, eliminates the use of choke holds and aggressive behavior. It includes a ban on “warrior training,” reforms to the Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board, and mental health and autism training, among other much-needed reforms. The Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, another key feature of the Act, “will have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach.”
Following Floyd’s murder, Minneapolis became a central figure in the Defund the Police campaign. On June 27th, the Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously to defund their police force and create a new division for dealing with non-violent situations. It passed in July and is now awaiting the signature of Governor Tim Waltz, though it has been met with some pushback by the Minneapolis Charter Commission.
Floyd’s death has inspired similar defunding and abolitionist acts across the country. On a federal level, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act was passed in the House of Representatives on June 25, 2020. This bill’s 11 points detail police misconduct and prohibit use of unnecessary force by law enforcement. The Los Angeles City Council has approved a $150 million cut to the LAPD’s budget; New York City lawmakers shifted $1 billion from policing to education and social services; Oakland leaders slashed $14.6 million from law enforcement; and California cut $9.2 million from its police force. Many schools across the country also pulled their funding and use of local police officers on their campuses.
The Breathe Act – July 7, 2020 (Federal)
“I Can’t Breathe” are the last words of several Black men and women who were killed by police officers, including George Floyd, Eric Garner, and Elijah McClain. It is also one of the many protest rhetoric’s that can be seen on protest signs, along with “No Justice, No Peace”, and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”. The Breathe Act is a product of the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), honoring those lives which were taken at the hands of police officers.
The Breathe Act is the most comprehensive and all-encompassing bill to be presented to congress. A time-bound plan, this bill calls for the restructuring of the justice system, reallocation of funds into social programs, and the abolition of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E) as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration (D.E.A). It also bans police forces from using military grade equipment in local communities.
The Breathe Act, unveiled on July 7, 2020, has the support of Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. It is still pending submission to congress for voting.
L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Civilian Oversight Commission – March 3, 2020 & August 28, 2020 (Sacramento, California)
California has been the center of protest in the United States for a long time. It was the center of the Gay Liberation front in San Francisco, The L.A. Riots in 1992, and it continues to hold weekly demonstrations for BLM, Climate Change, and prison reform. Reform L.A. Jails is an NGO focused on holding law enforcement accountable and dismantling the L.A. prison system.
This oversight commission was initially introduced as “Measure R” on an election ballot on March 3, 2020. It was initially submitted in September 2018, and in October, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to put the request on the March 2020 ballot. The ballot was sponsored by BLM Los Angeles, Reform L.A. Jails, Justice L.A. and many political figures, such as former Democratic Party candidates Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders. The ballot was founded by BLM founder, Patrisse Cullors. This measure authorizes the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission to develop a plan designed to reduce jail population and incarceration and granting the Commission subpoena power to investigate complaints. Measure R received overwhelming support with a 72.85% approval rating. To bolster this measure, Bill A1185 was also beginning to receive attention.
Bill A1185 was introduced in February 2019. This bill would authorize a county, either by action of the board of supervisors or through a vote of county residents, to establish an office of the inspector general to assist the board of supervisors with supervising the official conduct of all county officers and ensure that they faithfully perform their duties. It passed the Assembly on May 29, 2019, and Passed the Senate on August 28, 2020. It is currently on its way to the governor for final signatures.
Protest to Power: Making Real Changes
This is just a sample of the recent legislation that has been put into motion due to BLM protests across the country. As the movement continues to go forward, more legislation and laws will be enacted. Protest is an essential tool to initiate real change. It has been used for decades in the United States and continues to be the voice of the voiceless. When the rage and hurt begin to subside, it is time to get down to work and make some real, lasting change.
Copy Editor: Sarah Jane Singer
Editor: Esther Sullivan