Jun 2, 2020
Cory Booker & Kamala Harris Speech Transcript on George Floyd & Racial Injustice
African American Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris gave emotional speeches at a press conference on the George Floyd death, racial injustice & a new bill to combat it, and Donald Trump’s DC photo op. Read the full transcript here.
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Cory Booker: (00:00)
For Leader Schumer and my colleagues, this is a time of great pain and great frustration in the United States of America. People all over our country-
Chuck Schumer: (00:11)
I’ll be right back. I didn’t vote. Go ahead Cory.
Cory Booker: (00:19)
Thank you, Senator Schumer.
Cory Booker: (00:27)
It’s how the sausage gets made. It really is. I think a lot of Americans, most Americans, feel horrified and outraged by the brokenness of our criminal justice system. And to watch a police officer murder someone on live TV, sitting on their neck, knee on the neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. But this happened also in the context of Amaud Arbery, murdered while jogging through his community. It happens in the context of Brianna Taylor, murdered while sleeping in her own home by police unannounced, barged in and began that confrontation. It’s in the context of other incidences like we saw in Central Park, or someone threatens to call the police on an African American man.
Cory Booker: (01:18)
For so many Americans, this is not a tough week or a tough few weeks. This is the story of life every single day. And we have so many people in our country, African American men, mostly unarmed, being murdered by police officers and no way of holding them accountable. And so the challenge we face in this body is what are we going to do? Because that is the question that protestors are demanding. What will change? Will we be a society that is racked and spasms by protest and demonstration every so often when video tape captures what is a regular part of our culture and our nation and splays it out on national TV, that enrages a population, understandably so, where there are protests.
Cory Booker: (02:13)
And so I’m proud to be a part of a caucus that is offering a way forward. Senator Harris and I have partnered to lead our caucus in a larger comprehensive piece of legislation, which takes into the work of our Congressional Black Caucus, which has been working on these issues for many, many years, if not decades. It takes into incorporation so many of the ideas from our colleagues and puts forth a larger vision. She and I, other Senate colleagues, will be unveiling that in the days to come. But this has got to be a time where we understand that the work still demands we are a nation, that is one of our great historians and great figures. W.E.B. Du Bois said that, “The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line.”
Cory Booker: (03:05)
Well, here we are in the early stages of the 21st century and we did not solve that problem in the last one. That color line now divides what kind of educational outcomes you will have for too many Americans. It divides between what kind of environment, air you will breathe, with environmental justice, still being determined by race. It divides what kind of health care you may receive. The economy you may enjoy. The criminal justice system you will encounter. And like far greater leaders who martyred themselves to change that reality, to make this a nation with equal justice under the law, with liberty and justice for all, of all backgrounds, from those heroes like Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner, black, white, Christian, Jewish, joining together to fight to erase that savage line in our nation.
Cory Booker: (04:07)
We still have work to do. And that means that we must like those civil rights marchers who gathered here in this city, demanding legislative change and demanding federal change. Like the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the 1968 Fair Housing Act, those were to do the work of racial justice and equality in our country. Well, we now must act on policing.
Cory Booker: (04:36)
I want to finally say because we are indeed calling a unanimous consent on the issue of what happened yesterday. And I have to simply say, I grew up understanding the debt I owed to this city. I was born in Washington, DC. Two black parents who came from historically black colleges. And this was the city of opportunity. They met here, they married here, and it was activists, black and white in this city, that got companies to hire blacks for the first time. Because of activist in Washington, D C my father became the first black person hired by IBM as a salesman in this region. And I’m going to add to that, that this was a tumultuous time. It was the 1960s. And in this city we had peaceful gatherings, perhaps the greatest of all time. My mom was working in DC public schools and took the summer to help organize the March on Washington.
Cory Booker: (05:33)
I’m here because of those marches. I’m here because of those protests. And last night I felt a sense of embarrassment because I can’t pay them back. I got to pay it forward. And my embarrassment came is that I wasn’t there in that park, because I can imagine what would have happened in America if a President during the greatest march of that era, the March on Washington, had decided that they wanted to parade in the public for a photo op. And upon those peaceful, assembled protestors on the Washington Mall, to hear one of the greatest speeches of all times, what would happen if they came out upon those peaceful gathers with tear gas, rubber bullets, horses, marching against those protestors?
Cory Booker: (06:29)
I’m embarrassed that I was two miles from that park and I did not get there to stand with those protesters. Well, I’ll tell you what, Donald Trump, every member of this co-equal body should condemn what this President did, trampling upon the most sacred right of this nation to assemble, to petition, to protest. What this President did was to make a mockery of our civil rights. I say ours, I was not there in that park, but every one of us should wish we were there. And I’m telling you right now, if Donald Trump wants to gas someone, next time start right here. If he wants to shoot somebody with our federal officials with rubber bullets, start right here. If he wants to trample them with horses while they peacefully assemble, come to this body. Because what he did to those Americans in that square yesterday, he did to all of us. Shame on him to stand and hold up the Bible of our faith, of a man who understood humility, our savior, who stood up against power misuse, who stood up against every instinct that he showed yesterday.
Cory Booker: (07:57)
And so today the least we can do as a body is not to remain silent. That is shame. But to speak out against it. This was a moment yesterday on this sacred ground, our Capital, where people protesting on issues from women’s rights to civil rights to LGBTQ rights, people on the left and the right of the spectrum, come to understand it. If you stand peacefully, if you protest peacefully, you will be respected by your federal government, and that was violated yesterday. And so where do you stand today? Well, 100 members of this body will be tested about where they stand. That is a gently written, a gently written, unanimous consent. Everyone should stand up and be counted right now and say, “Aye.”
Chuck Schumer: (08:49)
Thank you, Cory. Amazing. Senator Harris.
Kamala Harris: (09:05)
Well, Senator Booker said it. In the last couple of days, I’ve been saying America is raw right now, her wounds are exposed. The reality of it is that the life of a black person in America, historically, and even most recently with Mr. Floyd, has never been treated as fully human. And it is time that we come to terms with the fact that America has never fully addressed the systemic racism that has existed in our country. That’s just a fact. And so the people protesting on the street are protesting understanding that we have yet to fulfill that promise of equal justice under the law. And there is a pain that is present that is being expressed in their Constitutional right to march and to shout.
Kamala Harris: (10:15)
Like Senator Booker, I am a child of parents who marched and shouted in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. I would not be here as only the second black woman elected to the United States Senate were at not for those folks who marched and shouted for justice. I would literally not be here were it not for those folks who took to the streets. My parents had their stories of how the police were turned on the marchers, but they still marched. And it was their March that laid the path for me to be here today, to speak at this moment, and to speak to this moment.
Kamala Harris: (11:07)
And as a former prosecutor, a profession I chose because I also, growing up the way I did, knew how law enforcement had a long history of enforcing laws indiscriminately and often based on race and racism. That’s why I chose to become a prosecutor. And I can say with full certainty that it is time that the leaders in this United States Senate, in this United States, Congress, take action to reform a criminal justice system that for far too long has been informed by systemic racism and by racial bias. It is time that we say that, “Bad cops are bad for good cops.” It is time that we say that, “One should not be subjected to the indignity of being told to get on your knees and put your hands behind your head simply because you are walking while black.” And it happens every day in America.
Kamala Harris: (12:23)
There’s not a black man I know, be he a relative, a friend, or a coworker or colleague, who has not been the subject of some form of racial discrimination at the hands of law enforcement. Not one I know. And I’m talking about people at every level of life, including people who graduated Harvard and Stanford and you name it. And the only thing that is common among them is that the color of their skin is black. That’s why the people are marching in the streets.
Kamala Harris: (13:02)
And the reality is that racism in America is bad for everyone. Racism is bad for everyone. Racism against black folks and Latinos and Asians and our native brothers and sisters, it’s bad for everyone. So this is a moment in time where we have to address this, and we have to address it sadly in the context of a pandemic that has also laid bare long standing disparities in our public health system, in our education system, in our economy, based on race. This is happening at a moment in time where we have a so-called Commander in Chief who also has the title of President of the United States, who I promise you will never speak the words Black Lives Matter.
Kamala Harris: (13:55)
Well, they do. So this is a moment in time where this coequal branch of government has a responsibility to stand for the principles of those words that are etched in that marble building across the street, “Equal Justice Under Law.” And to do it in a number of ways, understanding that the policing issue is the tip of the iceberg. It is underneath it. It is also these issues of longstanding racial disparities based on housing, based on education, based on public health. But right now, this is the moment in time to address the issue of policing.
Kamala Harris: (14:34)
And so the package of bills that Senator Booker and I and so many of our colleagues are pulling together is specifically to address that, because it must be addressed. It is a pervasive issue. And it’s 30 years after Rodney King and the chance and the marches and the songs are about the same issue that we were marching for back when my parents did it in the ’60s and when we did after Rodney King, 30 years ago. So now is the time to act, Leader Schumer. I thank you for your leadership of our caucus and your leadership as a great American leader on an issue that has two long plagued us, and that we have the power to address. Thank you.
Chuck Schumer: (15:20)
Senator [inaudible 00:15:20].