Jun 2, 2020
Gov. Ralph Northam Virginia Press Conference Transcript June 2
Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia held a press conference on June 2. Northam unveiled a plan to combat inequities amid the George Floyd protests. For coronavirus, he also said he’s allowing Virginia to move into Phase 2 reopening on Friday.
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Governor Ralph Northam: (02:08)
Well, good afternoon, and thanks to all of you for joining us today. Last Thursday, I told you that we would talk about phase two today, and we will do that in just a moment, but first we need to address something that is much more fundamental. Our country is in a moment of turmoil and we have to talk about it. We all saw those horrifying images of George Floyd, a black man begging for his life, as a man in uniform took it from him. It was heartbreaking, but that is not a new heartbreak for Black Americans. Before George Floyd, there was Breonna Taylor, there was Ahmaud Arbery, and there is a long list of names before them, people killed because in America, the color of their skin means that they are treated differently.
Governor Ralph Northam: (03:19)
The protests that we have been seeing are for them, and because of a system that continues to allow this to happen, we often fail to draw connections between our past and our present. But what we’re seeing today didn’t spring out of thin air. Racism and discrimination aren’t locked in our past. They weren’t solved with the Civil Rights Act. They didn’t disappear. They evolved. They’re still with us in the disparities we see in educational attainment and school suspension rates, in maternal and neonatal mortality for black mothers and their babies, in our courts and prisons, and in our business practices. They’re with us in the health inequities that made black people and people of color more vulnerable to COVID-19.
Governor Ralph Northam: (04:28)
Through 400 years of American history, starting with the enslavement of Africans, through Jim Crow, massive resistance, and now mass incarceration, black oppression has always existed in this country, just in different forms. I cannot know how it feels to be an African American person right now, or what you are going through. I cannot know the depth of your pain, but what I can do is stand with you, and I can support you, and together, we are going to turn this pain into action. This means continuing the work that we have begun together. It means continuing to take actions, to right historical inequities in education, in our health system, and in access to business opportunities and a lot more.
Governor Ralph Northam: (05:34)
You know what it looks like to date. The work includes expanding Medicaid so more people of color have healthcare coverage. We have now enrolled over 420,000 Virginians. It meant putting in place historic new funding for-
Speaker 1: (05:54)
… hospital, and 921 people who have died. Yesterday, North Carolina marked a day of mourning for the more than 100,000 Americans who we’ve lost to. COVID-19. It’s a somber benchmark. To combat the rising case counts and deaths, we’re continuing to increase our testing and tracing of known-
Governor Ralph Northam: (06:20)
… driver’s license, because they owe court fees. It meant decriminalizing marijuana. It meant making it easier to vote, not harder. It meant making Election Day a holiday so more people can vote. It meant finally ending the old holiday celebrating Confederate generals. It meant a new commission to study slavery in Virginia, and subsequent racial and economic discrimination. Delegate Delores McQuinn, who is with us today, proposed that, and I signed it into law, and it will get to work very soon. We are doing all of this together, and we’re going to keep working even harder, because we have so much more work to do.
Governor Ralph Northam: (07:11)
I want to highlight four specifics. First, we’re going to keep listening and learning. This includes virtual town halls to continue the conversation about criminal justice reform and public safety. Second, I will be meeting with the board of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police. I know they want to make sure their officers have the training and exercise the judgment to do the right thing. They will continue to work toward more diverse staffs and more positive community interactions. Third, we will be working with these leaders and many others on a statewide day of prayer, healing and action. And fourth, I’m asking our African American Advisory Board and the Virginia Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Laws to continue their work of auditing Virginia’s code with a focus on criminal justice and public safety. Thursday is the one year anniversary of our creating the commission, and they have done tremendous and important work. I’m proud that when we took the recommendations to the General Assembly, they all passed unanimously. That’s a hopeful sign.
Governor Ralph Northam: (08:31)
There is more work to do, as I said, and I am committed to doing that work. These actions will not bring back lives that have been lost, but they are steps toward an America and a Virginia where this doesn’t happen. They are steps toward fixing the inequities embedded in our systems. So my message to protesters here in Richmond and around Virginia is that I hear you. I’m here to work with you so that together we can help build a place where no one fears for their life because of the color of their skin. I pledge to stand with you.
Governor Ralph Northam: (09:18)
Today, we have several guests with us, and we recognize that there are many other voices who need to be part of this conversation. I want to introduce them. I’m going to have Delegate Delores McQuinn say some words, and then others will follow her, but the first will be Delegate Delores McQuinn, West Bellamy Interim Chair of the Virginia State University Political Science Department, Jim Bibbs, Chairman of the Urban League of Hampton Roads, Shirley Ginwright, Chair of the Fairfax County Communities of Trust Committee and a member of the African American Advisory Board, Cynthia Hudson, a member of the state NAACP and Chair of the Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in the Virginia Code, Reverend Kelvin Jones from First Baptist Capeville on the Eastern Shore, my pastor. Reverend Tyrone Nelson from the Sixth Mount Zion Baptist church here in Richmond, and Niquelle Perry, a rising senior and student leader at Albemarle High School.
Governor Ralph Northam: (10:26)
So I invite Delegate Delores McQuinn to speak, and then we will hear from others. Delegate McQuinn, thank you so much, and welcome.
Delegate Delores McQuinn: (10:37)
Thank you, Governor, and to those who are assembled here. Governor, and members of the press, and those who are here, we are clearly a nation in crisis and chaos, fueled by yet another casualty, systemic racism. But sadly, this is not the first time. As I watched the senseless murder of Mr. George Floyd broadcast on my TV screen, and I heard my six year old granddaughter as we were sitting at the supper table, what was going on the TV, going on on the television, to our attention, when she said, ” Whoa. Whoa. Whoa, Mr. Policeman. That is just too much.” My heart was bruised and broken, and so many people across this country right now are bruised and broken. The recent murder that led to the untimely unfortunate death of Mr. George Floyd, and Mr. Ahmaud Arbery, and Ms. Breonna Taylor and others, continue to shed high beams on the past and the present attitudes that have devalued and dehumanized African Americans for 400 years, and even 150-some years after Emancipation Proclamation being signed.
Delegate Delores McQuinn: (12:21)
I want to say to the Governor that first I am so grateful for his leadership, in an effort to just begin to heal the wounds of systemic racism in Virginia. And I wanted to just share a few highlights and steps that have been taken, and he’s shared some of it with you over the past year, to just address the difficult and the complex history of inequity in the Commonwealth. What he realized, and him and I had many conversations about this along with others, realized that we must tell the full and the true story of the inequities that have resulted from over 400 years of discrimination, racial discrimination and systemic racism had that had been legalized and institutionalized, and sanctioned and sanitized throughout this country.
Delegate Delores McQuinn: (13:11)
Now is the time for us to deal with it head on, but Governor Northam was dealing with these hard issues even before the national crisis last week, and he has shown his willingness to continue to take steps toward healing this Commonwealth. And we all realize that we must sit at the table with him and come up with concrete strategies to reform the structures that created and maintain racial inequities. After we march, we plan and we take steps necessary to effectuate positive change.
Delegate Delores McQuinn: (13:45)
I am proud to say that the 2020 General Assembly looked at some of the recommendation and repealed each and every one that was old discriminatory laws that Governor Northam signed, that was on the books. And also during the 2020 General Assembly, when I introduced House Bill 1519, which established a commission to finally spend time studying slavery and Jim Crow, the Black Code and massive resistance, and the impact that this has had on the Commonwealth of Virginia, he signed that bill and fully fund the commission to do this difficult work and to make recommendations on way to move forward with addressing the real issues of inequities that still plague this Commonwealth. Also, I’m just so thankful that he hired the diversity officer, the first one, Dr. Janice Underwood, who fully understand has been working diligently, helping to address these issues.
Delegate Delores McQuinn: (14:43)
We are a nation in crisis, but I am not expecting us to stay here. The expectation is to protest peacefully. After we protest peacefully, let’s sit at the table where our voices can be heard and where people can dissect and process what we have to say. Let’s get to work to make a difference, and so that for the next generation, the six year old granddaughter that I have, and my little adopted son, Mr. Tyler, Skylar, that that generation of young people will live in a better America, a better society, and a better Commonwealth. Thank you again, Mr. Governor.
Speaker 2: (15:36)
Certainly thank you, Governor Northam, and to fellow Virginians. As we gather today, I believe that all of us will agree that these are turbulent times. We have seen the unfortunate, untimely, and unnecessary deaths of individuals of color over and over again, by the hands of a cancerous portion of what is without a doubt an otherwise healthy and properly functioning group of police officers who each day risk their lives to protect and to serve. And in these turbulent moments, the call is to no longer tolerate the cancer that infects our police departments, but throughout America, we must excise the cancer so that it does not destroy the majority of the body that functions properly and professionally, and genuinely cares about the communities which they serve.
Speaker 2: (16:28)
Unfortunately, we are witnessing in response to these deaths, caused by these cancerous individuals, is years of hurt and pain, and it is now manifesting itself. And whenever pain is continuously perpetuated on persons, they will respond in one of two ways, fight or flight. And for some, they feel they have run too long. They feel their grandparents have run. They have seen their parents run. They have recently seen their peers run, and some of them have even had to run, but the pain has worn them down and they can no longer run. They feel their only response now is to fight, a response which is often misunderstood. But if you have never been cornered and only privileged, it’s difficult to understand the pain or the response, but let’s be clear, and do not get these persons confused with those who have deleterious intentions.
Speaker 2: (17:25)
And paranthetically, I would like to say to the looters and riders who are merely being opportunist and hiding behind those whose pain is real and authentic, you are not honoring the life of George Floyd. You are not honoring the real struggle of racism that is eating at America and Virginia. What you are doing is deterring the efforts that could be used to identify and eliminate systemic racism in every place that it rears its ugly head. What you are doing is wasting manpower that could be used to identify and eliminate cancerous persons in positions of power, but now resources have to be redirected to deal with those of you who are making no real contributions, but have come in your own way a part of the problem.
Speaker 2: (18:11)
Everyone is asking today, “How do we end senseless looting and rioting? How do we respond to the chaotic climate and culture of which we are living?” And I believe the answer lies within each one of us. The answer that the African American community is looking for is first of all, just to be heard. One of the most degrading feelings is to speak and be ignored as if what you’re saying is irrelevant. We saw that proven after the death of Mr. Floyd. Minneapolis was upset, but still intact. They had asked for charges to be filed and arrests made, but no one heard the appeal, and if they heard it, they did not listen. So what happened? They rioted. Was it right? No. Do I condone it? No. However, look at what happened after the riot. The same district attorney came on the same channel the next day and-
Speaker 4: (19:03)
District Attorney came on the same channel the next day and charged at least one cop, not in response to the request and the voice of a hurting people, but in response of the rioting. So what message did he send? That we do not listen to what you say when you speak intelligently, but when you respond with violent actions, we listen. And what those intellectual and intelligent persons who are peaceful and law abiding citizens once again felt was that the promise of the Declaration of Independence did not apply to them, that all persons are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To this, it did not include them. But those persons still decided to peacefully protest, but were surrounded by a group who said, “No more,” and decided to serve the response on a plate that the DA and too much of America is satisfied eating from. That is a plate of negative reactions, as opposed to sitting at the table of intelligent conversations.
Speaker 4: (20:08)
The other thing African Americans are looking for was best demonstrated as I watched a group of white females in Louisville, Kentucky lock arms and say to the police and to the world, “If you want to get to them, you must come through us.” They were saying, “If you won’t listen to them as they speak alone, maybe you will listen as we stand together with them.” Wouldn’t it be nice if we could see our leaders lock arms and say, “You’ve got to come through us.” African-Americans want to hear and see European coworkers say to their counterparts that, “We don’t stand behind you, but we stand with you as African Americans.” African Americans want to see their friends not only say it to them privately that, “You are a good person,” but say it to the world publicly irregardless of the company you are in. Because what you’re saying then is what you say to my African American brother and sister, how you treat my African American brother and sister, and what you do to my African-American brother and sister is what you do to me. One of the most painful things to experience is someone that says they’re with you, that in times of adversity, they hide. Peter in the Bible just promised the Lord that in private that he would never leave his side, but when the enemy came, he hid himself and stood not with him, but a far off. And said, “I don’t know him.” Today the challenge to Virginia and the rest of the world is during these turbulent times, will you speak truth to power? Will you stand as leaders united and open, not as Republicans or Democrats, not across the aisle, but in the aisle, united arm-in-arm speaking ever so boldly, not in word, but in actions? Will you say that we are one irregardless the color? What will you say as leaders to the constituents who voted for you at this turbulent time?
Speaker 4: (22:06)
And for each one of us, we need to be mindful that it was not just one race that elected us. Virginia, in these times of adversity, what will we do? Will we say, “I don’t know them?” Or where we acknowledge the word of the Creator, that we are our brother’s keeper? My response and your response will be remembered and recorded in history. So ask yourself what side of the page as Virginians will we be on? The response of our leaders today will determine where Virginia goes from here. Will we be one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all? Or will we be the house divided that will not stand? I believe today that Virginia is greater than hate. I believe that Virginia has the capacity to move beyond systemic racism. Let us stand tall and live out our mantra that Virginia is for lovers.
Shirley Ginwright: (23:15)
Thank you, Governor, for having us. I’m Shirley Ginwright and I represent the Fairfax County Community’s Trust Committee, and I’m also a member of the African-American Advisory Board. But my experience goes back with Dr. Martin Luther King when I marched with him. So I’m probably one of the oldest ones in the room. And a lot of the things that I’m seeing now are the things that we fought for then. The racism, and to be included. We didn’t have the riots, but Dr. King did say that the riots are the voice of the unheard. We talk about listening, we don’t listen. We don’t listen to the black voices, but we definitely need to listen to the young people who are on the street fighting for justice. That was me doing Dr. King and the civil rights movement. The young people fighting. So why are they fighting for the same things now?
Shirley Ginwright: (24:21)
Well, legislations haven’t changed. Recently, we had elections. Commonwealth attorneys were hired that was fighting for criminal justice reform. Unfortunately, I saw a lot of law enforcement officers fighting against that. Why isn’t it that they’d want the criminal justice system to be reformed? Governor, thank you for signing the decriminalization of marijuana bill, because so many of our students and our young black men and women are getting caught up in the criminal justice system because of marijuana, something that wasn’t killing them. But here was another expense that they could not afford. We have to change our laws. When the rioting is over, when the smoke has cleared, we cannot go back to business as usual. We have to make our legislators accountable, we have to change the books, we have to be there so the next generation will not go through the same thing that we’re having to go through now or that we went through 50 years ago.
Shirley Ginwright: (25:37)
So I’m asking you to stand up. To my white sisters and brothers, stand with us, not behind us. Walk with us, let your voice be the true voice. You can help make a difference. To my black brothers and sisters, let your voice be heard through your vote. We have no obligation to someone to stay in a position the rest of their lives. If they don’t support the issues that you want, vote them out. We have election coming out. I would like to see as many of you vote as you are marching. Thank you so much.
Speaker 6: (26:21)
Thank you, Mr. Governor, for having me. As he said earlier, my name is [Nacoa 00:26:25] Perry, Jr. And I am a rising senior at Albemarle High School located in Charlottesville, Virginia. I am a part of a student equity group called SEAT, which stands for Student Equity Advisory Team. And we pride ourselves on being anti-racist. One thing that I want to say is to all the kids that are watching, we are the future. Our voice needs to be heard, and we need to come together now more than ever. We need everyone, any race, we need everyone to make this thing bigger and to help us. To all my kids and fellow classmates who are going to be eligible to vote, please use your right and vote and let your voices be heard. To all the protesters out there, please be safe. And one day I have faith that this nation will become better. Thank you.
Speaker 5: (27:16)
Thank you, Governor, for giving us this opportunity to share. I want to just let you guys know that black people are hurting. And we’re not going to be able to sweep this up under the carpet or go along with as business as usual. For decades, centuries, 400 years, black people have been treated as less than, unequal. And to continue to the Washington Post has a database that said since January 1st, 2015, over 1000 black people have been killed by police. That’s a scary statistic. And we can roll the names off. It’s not just George Floyd. When we see him, we see the case before that. And we think about all the things that we’re struggling with. I’ve got a 19 year old male at home and two African American young, young, young daughters. And it makes me sad that I’ve got to go through a long lineage of what I need to tell them to do while they out. Put your driver’s license in the side, put your registration down on the side, try not to move much.
Speaker 5: (28:32)
I’m telling my son that all the while, I have to do this my own self, and my daughters, and my wife, and my parents. And it gets old. And so when you see the frustration, there’s a text in the 19th chapter of Luke. I’m a Baptist preacher so forgive me. Verses 41 and 42, where it talks about Jesus weeping, that Jesus saw the city and was frustrated and began to show emotion. This is where we are right now. And this is our time to deal with our feelings about what is going on in the world. My hope is for those who don’t understand it, try to have some empathy, help us do something about it. The text says Jesus wept, but he also acted. And that’s my challenge, my hope. I see those who are outside right now, who are protesting. My hope is that you join in and make some things happen.
Speaker 5: (29:45)
I’m not just a pastor, but I also am an elected official. And on one hand, I’m frustrated and I’m tired and I’m sad and I’m angry. But I also realize that I’ve got a responsibility, as do all of us. And so today, as I’m sitting behind my computer, frustrated, angry, tired, mad, I’m also typing an email to my colleagues. And I’m saying, I’m asking for us to have a community review board. I’m asking for us to rename any building that has a Confederate name to it. I’m asking for us to look at all our policies that will empower police to kill, murder people. So this is my challenge. Be angry, make your anger move to righteous indignation. And then let’s take advantage of this moment that we have and let’s do something. Let’s not be here again. All right? Let’s stop empowering people to murder black people. Thank you.
Jim Bibbs: (31:00)
Good afternoon. I am Jim Bibbs. I’m representing the Urban League of Hampton Roads. I am the Chair there. I want to take a few moments just to talk about the unrest that’s been in our nation. I think if we’re all honest, this hurts us all. Even to those who have no clue of what’s going on, and there are people, believe it or not, today that have no clue still of what’s going on. But they’re hurting because they see the nation in unrest. One, I want to say thank you to the Governor for having this conference today. Governor, thank you. Thank you, Governor, for the African Advisory Council that you have in place. Thank you. And thank you for hiring the Chief Diversity Officer and Dr. Janice Underwood. That is a beginning. And that was done well in advance of all that’s happening. One, I believe Virginia is putting together a roadmap for the nation to follow under the leadership of Governor Northam. So I will say that first. Second, I will say I know that they have been working on legislation and revision of old laws that were undue or unusually challenging to African American people. I like to use different words. So if you catch me with that, please forgive me.
Jim Bibbs: (32:21)
But the foresight to do that, regardless of what the circumstances were, has put Virginia ahead of some of the other states within the country. So for that, we’re good. And it’s not done yet. They’re not finished. There’s a lot of work to go, but they are on the right track. And I am confident that with Dr. Underwood and people that are on her staff and some of the many others who are in the administration, I see Traci DeShazor over to the right. And I know I’ve seen a few other people in the hallways that I know here. I’m confident that Virginia will get there. But now for the unrest that’s happening in our nation and in our streets, in our cities, these are the voices of the unheard. They’re angry, they’re mad, and they’re frustrated. In some instances, it might be some of the kids who are protesting. In some instances, it’s not the kids who are protesting. In some instances, it’s people from both extreme sides of the party who are wanting to come and create a different message. We can’t have that happen. Our goal is to not lose the message.
Jim Bibbs: (33:37)
We need police reform. We need police to have dash cams, body cams on at all times. We need laws revised in ways that look at everyone. We also need to address some of those things that we deem socially acceptable with regards to things that are said such as, “There’s only one race, the human race.” Such as many things along those lines that we hear and we say and we kind of excuse behaviors. We have to challenge those behaviors when we hear them. Stop being afraid to be the one in the room to challenge a behavior, to challenge a statement that you know is not right. If you feel it in your gut that it’s not right, challenge that statement. It’s not a problem. If we don’t do that, this nation will never advance.
Jim Bibbs: (34:35)
We have to stop right where we are today and say, “It’s going to be better starting today, starting with me.” I have a friend who was a staunch conservative from childhood. She wrote me a message and she said for the first time, her son is 21 years old and in a military academy, 6’1″, 195 pounds, strapping young buck. For the first time, she said, when he was going out the other day, she had to tell him to be careful. And when the door shut, she said she felt the pit in her stomach. She said it was something she never felt before. And she said that the first person she thought of was me. I don’t know why, but she thought of me, to reach out to me and say that she was sorry for some of the comments that she’s made. And she understood for the first time that pit in her gut that African American parents feel when their child walks out. She said she didn’t have to have the full talk, but she had to have a talk for the first time.
Jim Bibbs: (35:38)
That’s the beginning. Those are the moments that we’re talking about. Challenge those moments, make certain that what you’re doing is for a better Virginia, a better community that you live in, and a better nation. Thank you.
Speaker 7: (35:58)
Good afternoon. Much of what you’ve heard today is necessary to hear and to be said, and I won’t repeat the sentiments. I will say, though, thank you to Governor Northam for creating a vehicle that I can be directly involved in where I can sit at the table and I can translate the sentiments that are playing out on the streets all across this country into the action that’s necessary. The NAACP President at the national level has said very succinctly and it sums it up for me, “We are done dying.” I’m a little bit done talking. I want to act. And I appreciate having the opportunity to do that as Chair of the Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law. And we’re ready to get started.
Speaker 8: (36:59)
Thank you, everyone. Thank you, Governor Northam. Thank you all for being here for the conversation. Governor Northam, your leadership and support are even more important now as we navigate the complex and complicated state of our country and our Commonwealth, and determine how Virginia can lead the charge. All week, many of us have been in Zoom meetings or watching the protests, and we’ve been on the brink of breaking down and we’re angry. I’ve wondered why the murder of George Floyd has been especially heartbreaking. And I realized that it’s because we all witnessed, in effect, a 21st century version of a lynching. But similar to Eric Garner, I believe that we have all been so viscerally impacted because we all can’t breathe.
Dr. Underwood: (38:01)
… because we all can’t breathe. We’re angry, but in the words of Cynthia Hudson, “We’re ready to act.” So yes, this is painful for all of us, and it’s painful for the black community in particular because of our historical connection to lynching and as victims of violence at the hands of white people. And despite all of us, like so many others, I feel the world around us is simply waiting on the next news cycle to change. And we fear a return to ignoring white supremacy in plain sight.
Dr. Underwood: (38:41)
I weep and intercede on behalf of the Floyd family and on behalf of your family and my family, and on behalf of every life that does not yet matter. I’m exhausted by being black in America. I fear for my husband who is just as tall and possibly as threatening to law enforcement as George Floyd was. I fear for my black daughters and my father and my nephew and my nieces. Despite this very real fear and the overwhelming pain and exhaustion, I commit to standing with Governor Northam and everyone in this room and everyone behind us to dismantle institutionalized racism in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Dr. Underwood: (39:33)
It is time to act. Are you with me? If so, let’s work together and answer Dr. King’s question in his last book, “Where do we go from here? Chaos or community?” It is in that spirit of Dr. King’s last grand expression of his vision for us we will share in the coming weeks how we believe we can be more proactive in how we address race and race relations in our state.
Dr. Underwood: (40:03)
COVID-19 was an unexpected threat that forced us to quickly rally our best leaders from diverse backgrounds, but COVID-19 is not the only institutional virus or the biggest public health crisis that we’ve seen in our nation. Institutional racism is. I am proud of the Health Equity Task Force and the Health Equity Working Group, but I’m also so proud of this administration and so many others who aren’t even up here with us today, but who are doing the work. Just like COVID-19, systemic racism and race relations will also require a comprehensive team of diverse leaders, willing to have courageous and brave conversations to evoke change.
Dr. Underwood: (40:54)
This is change that will be painful for some but necessary to advance visible equity and inclusion. But I know we can do it because we’ve done it before. In one short year, we have already gotten the position of Chief Diversity Officer codified so that it is now a permanent position for every future governor’s cabinet leadership. We have begun to frame the One Virginia Plan, a strategic plan for increasing diversity and inclusive excellence, and have engaged with more than 25,000 residents, faith leaders, and stakeholders, to get input on the COVID-19 response. And during the 2020 General Assembly session, we passed the most historic equity legislation in the history of any administration in Virginia. These are all wins we can be proud about, but we know there is so much more work to do.
Dr. Underwood: (41:52)
None of us can do this by ourselves, but if you want to know what you can do right now, what can you do to help, let’s start by acknowledging that all of us are at different levels of understanding these racial dynamics. And especially for our youngest residents, our children, this may be the first time they are seeing such and experiencing such painful things. So helping our children, our friends, and neighbors requires a commitment to leaning, and I mean leaning, into our discomfort and privilege. These conversations will create emotions of confusion and defensiveness and guilt and anger and fear, but these are normal and necessary human responses. I ask you to listen to one another. We must treat each other with respect and listen to each other. Listen to your friend, listen to your coworker, listen to that relative or neighbor who needs to share their experiences or their pain, because we are in so much pain.
Dr. Underwood: (43:05)
Secondly, learn how to be a genuine ally, not a fake ally. How can you be a genuine ally in this work and help your friends and coworkers and relatives and loved ones and neighbors to avoid stereotyping and criminalizing and undermining people of color? And that goes for all of us, all of you watching, all of us in this room, it goes for all of us.
Dr. Underwood: (43:33)
And finally, you can start by educating yourself about the racial dynamics that we are all experiencing by having conversations, but also by reading books and watching films about anti-racism to gain a new knowledge, a new language, a new confidence, to be able to talk about it in your sphere of influence. On my website, I have resources and information where you can start to learn more about appropriate language and best practices for advancing equity.
Dr. Underwood: (44:06)
This is what I know for sure. Your voice is essential to our success. I need you to be involved in this work ahead. We are all in this together. Step by step and day by day, we will rebuild our Commonwealth and emerge as a national exemplar for inclusive excellence and racial equity. I believe it in my heart and I hope you do too. Thank you.
Governor Ralph Northam: (44:36)
Thank you, Dr. Underwood, and thanks to all of you for sharing your powerful words this afternoon. I’d be glad to take a couple of questions.
Reporter 1: (44:45)
Governor, as you know, I’ve been an independent journalist for 31 years. We broadcast in all of Central Virginia, all of Hampton Roads. And I would like someone from this esteemed group to speak to my colleague and their news directors who are setting somewhere, watching this right now and saying, “Well, all this will pass and we’ll be back to normal. And these stories won’t be told.” I promise you there’s a news director that says, “This will all blow over.”
Reporter 1: (45:17)
So if someone could speak to the press, I would appreciate it. Then on a sidebar Governor, I was a few minutes late coming in because a guy stopped me right on Grace Street. And as protesters were marching by, you could hear them, he pulled me to the side. I said, “Man, I’m going to be late.” He said, “Come here.” He said, “Tell the Governor that I hope he hears us young people.”
Governor Ralph Northam: (45:39)
Reporter 1: (45:39)
“Because we will not stop. And we don’t believe in all this peace stuff. I hope he hears us.”
Governor Ralph Northam: (45:47)
I think that it was well stated by our senior in high school that they are our future and this is all about their future and then their children and grandchildren. And so I just admire you for being here. Number one, your courage to stand up here and make that clear that we are here to listen to the young people. Delegate McQuinn, do you want to address the… Maybe to kind of-
Delegate McQuinn: (46:14)
Governor Ralph Northam: (46:16)
Maybe just what the message is, what we plan to do at least as legislators and this branch.
Delegate McQuinn: (46:24)
Governor Ralph Northam: (46:24)
Delegate McQuinn: (46:24)
Thank you, Governor. Thank you, Governor. We were, a matter of fact, I was on the telephone last night with my colleagues talking about, going actually across the State of Virginia. Last year we did Safe Virginia Initiative, but we want to do also looking at doing a Safe Virginia… Not Safe Virginia, but Virginia Equity, sort of I guess, Initiative, where we will go around Virginia having opportunities to have the discussions with the community. Now COVID-19, I’m not sure how much we are going to do in terms of actually being in a place. Certainly virtual means is available for us. And then we have legislation that we are working on again that was passed.
Delegate McQuinn: (47:10)
I think that the importance of all of us understanding the institution of slavery, the black code, Jim Crow, and massive resistance is going to be essential to us moving forward. And many generations are here now who don’t understand that. And they may have been raising the questions. Why are they still talking about that old stuff? But the reality is that what happened then has a direct correlation to what is happening now. And so we need to understand our history, both black and white, Asian, all Americans, through history books, through the books, through social studies, you name it. It need to be implemented so that there are faces of those who have made extraordinary contributions to Virginia and to this country. And so there are many things that we’re going to be able to do, and I think at the appropriate time, we need to begin to really truly publicize this. In terms of the media. And I want to say some of them, I’ve looked at several, and they have been on this. And so I think this whole discussion is here to stay. It is too many of us who are here at the table, young, and those more mature, who have worked very hard, trying to help get us to a place. And I’m one. I started when I was 11 years old, I’ve been for 25 years trying to help address the issue of systemic racism. But I think we’re at a place in this country now that we have declared no longer where we sit idly by and allow things that have happened in so many facets of our society, we’re not going anywhere and we want it. We want to get to a place where all of us can breathe. And the only way we can do that is to sit down at the table and get these things moved forward. Thank you.
Governor, these protests started, at least in Richmond, on Friday. So I’m wondering why wait until today to address them? And also when you spoke about steps moving forward, I didn’t hear any specific criminal justice reforms. So I was wondering what specific changes you think need to be made in Virginia?
Governor Ralph Northam: (49:31)
Yeah. Well, I think your first part of your question was the protest started on Friday. We have been involved, Kate. I have been working closely with our mayor who was intending to be here this afternoon, but had another commitment as you probably are well aware of. We’ve been on the phone daily. We have been working with our leaders, really asking the question, why? Why are these happening? And then trying to recognize, all of us together, that this is real pain that people are experiencing. And working with law enforcement. As you know, we’ve also been working with our National Guard. We want to do everything that we can to allow people to express their opinions, to protest peacefully. But we also have to keep the peace and we have done this in a step wise fashion, as you have seen, and we will continue to do that.
Governor Ralph Northam: (50:36)
But I think that the more important message, and you talked about criminal justice reform, and what we’re doing moving forward. I listed a number of things that we have worked on. We will continue to be on a listening tour. We will learn, and we will bring that back to make policy. I think you’ve heard a lot of our speakers this afternoon say that it’s time to turn what we are listening to into action. And that’s what I’m committed to doing. And I can not speak for the entire legislature, but I know there are a number of them that are ready to come back here. We’re going to come back here probably in August for a special session to deal with the budget. I am very confident that even between now and then there will be pieces of legislation that are introduced. Some of them may be regarding criminal justice reform. There may be others as well, but we’ll continue to listen and we’ll take that into action and we’ll move forward as a Commonwealth.
Delegate McQuinn: (51:39)
May I [inaudible 00:51:41] one second?
Governor Ralph Northam: (51:41)
Delegate McQuinn: (51:42)
In the next three weeks, you will have a brand new Criminal Justice Commission. Many of the criminal justice issues that have been coming forth, back and forth to the General Assembly year after year, those things will be addressed. And I can promise you, there will be a difference in terms of legislation and implementation of those things that we know can get passed through the General Assembly as we move to the next place.
Speaker 9: (52:14)
Governor, [inaudible 00:14:17]?
Governor Ralph Northam: (52:17)
Speaker 9: (52:20)
Just wanted to step in. There were a couple of questions, but in particular with the one, why now when the riots started on Friday here in Richmond? My wife and I sit and ask ourselves that question as well. But we also have found out that the Governor has been talking to a lot of the legislators behind the scene. One thing I will say, and some leaders in communities, but one thing I will say is it’s also time to update a Rolodex of the people that they speak to because some of the people they’re speaking to, who we love and we cherish, are not the people who are on the streets.
Speaker 9: (52:58)
So we need to make certain that when we’re speaking to community leaders, it’s not the tried and true traditional leaders, it’s some of the younger leaders now who are out there. It’s time to hand the baton over to a newer generation who’s out there and who who’s making a difference, and this will not go away. So for the news anchor or media director-
Reporter 1: (53:23)
The news director.
Speaker 9: (53:23)
The news director. This is a very different type of noise. And if it’s not addressed, it will become more than noise. Thank you.
I wanted to ask you about the White House conference with the governors on Monday. I know, I’ve read the transcripts, some of the President’s rhetoric has been criticized by other governors. Can you talk about some of the things he said, like clamping down on protesters and using military force to stamp them out? What would be your response to that?
Governor Ralph Northam: (53:59)
Mel, the question was about the conversation with the President and we were part of that conversation. And the message, regrettably, was not one of healing. It was not one of unity. It was one of divisiveness. And I regret that coming from the leader of the most powerful country in the world. As a followup, Mel, as you know, part of the discussion was a request for our National Guard to go to Washington, DC. I chose not to send our National Guard to Washington, DC for several reasons. Number one, it was not requested by the mayor of Washington, DC. We have numerous scheduled protest and challenges right here in Virginia. And I thought it was in Virginia’s best interests to keep our National Guard here. And finally, I’m not going to send our men and women in uniform of a very proud National Guard to Washington for a photo op.
Reporter 2: (55:18)
Governor, I know Delegate McClellan talked about the need for peaceful protest. But what is your message to those who are choosing not to protest peacefully and are destroying the city?
Governor Ralph Northam: (55:28)
I think you already heard some of that message. And I think from my perspective, people are angry. They’re mad. And I guess an analogy, if it’s okay, that I would use as a physician who has been with families when they’ve lost their children, a lot of times well-intended folks will come up and say, “I understand what you’re going through. I feel your pain.” Well, no, you don’t because you’ve never walked in their shoes. You’ve never experienced what they’re experiencing.
Governor Ralph Northam: (56:08)
And so perhaps I’m not the best one to talk about the pain that people are feeling, but I think you’ve heard from these testimonials and powerful words this afternoon. And so I think we need to step back from the big picture, from the protesters, and certainly encourage them to be peaceful. But I think the bigger challenge, the bigger message is for people that look like me is to ask ourselves why? Why are they feeling this pain? And to listen. And when we listen, we learn and then if our hearts are in the right place then we can sit down, as Delegate McQuinn said, we can sit down at the table and in a civil manner, move forward and take action to make our society better for our young folks and everybody else that’s in the world with us.
Speaker 10: (57:01)
Governor Ralph Northam: (57:01)
… anybody else that’s in the world with us.
Speaker 11: (57:03)
Do you think it’s possible that some of these people really are coming from out of town and their intentions are not for the right reasons?
Governor Ralph Northam: (57:09)
I think it’s fair to say that there are individuals out there who are exploiting the situation that we’re in and for that, we regret that and I ask them to take their energy and their interest elsewhere.
Speaker 12: (57:26)
And governor, I know you talked about listening to the people who are out on the streets as I’m sure you can hear them there right now. Just looking at social media, I believe some of them would like you to be out there right now listening to them. I know Mayor Stoney was doing that a few hours ago. Would you be willing to go outside at the conclusion of this and speak with them and listen with them?
Governor Ralph Northam: (57:43)
Well, I would continue to reach out to folks and have a dialogue. I’m not sure right now is the best time for me to be out in the midst of that. There are a number of reasons for that, that I won’t get into. But I will tell you, I hope that they are able to listen to me. I am speaking as to my commitment and our commitment as an administration as we move forward and try to remedy some of the pain that people have been experiencing for 400 years now.
Speaker 13: (58:14)
Obviously, we’ve been talking about a pandemic for over two months. So with all of these [inaudible 00:58:24] crowds resisting over the last several days, what are your conversations and are you concerned, not just the past two weeks now on the pandemic especially on people of color who are already disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and the common law.
Governor Ralph Northam: (58:39)
Jackie, I am concerned from what I’ve seen and obviously people are gathering, and we know that this virus is spread through the air. So I encourage folks as they are out protesting number one, to do it peacefully. But also to remember that we are in the middle of a pandemic COVID- 19 and so we encourage the social distancing and the wearing a facial protection.
Is there anything that you would advise for people that are leaving these protests? And because as you’ve said before, the masks can create a false sense of security. Still people are within six feet of each other, obviously. So for people that are participating in these protests, any specific advice for how they should act when they go home?
Governor Ralph Northam: (59:23)
Well, just to remember to keep themselves safe and also others, family members, and to follow the guidelines that we had been talking about. And as you know, we’ve ramped up our testing, that’s available to many more people. And I would certainly say if someone feels like they have been exposed to COVID-19 or even has symptoms of COVID-19 that to please go out and see their provider and also to be tested.
Speaker 13: (59:54)
We are going to move on to our next phase. So Governor, if you have any final?
Governor Ralph Northam: (59:54)
No. Again, Just thank you all for listening this afternoon and thank you for being part of the solution. As we have said, I think collaboratively together, now is the time to take action and I am committed to leading that effort and I have a whole lot of people that are willing to help. So let’s not forget what we’re seeing out there, why we’re seeing it and let’s work together.
Governor Ralph Northam: (01:00:23)
As you’ve always heard me say, Virginia, the Virginia way, it’s time for us to sit down, to listen to each other and really to make policy that will make it safer and more inclusive for all Virginia. So thank you all. And I’m going to take a quick break and then we will be back and I want to make an announcement regarding moving into phase two. So thank you all very much.
Governor Ralph Northam: (01:00:48)
Speaker 14: (01:02:31)
So many for so many years, the message to protesters.
Speaker 14: (01:02:33)
Governor Ralph Northam: (01:04:28)
On Thursday, I told Virginians that we would be making an announcement today regarding phase two. So because of our attention in recent days that has been on these protests, we are still in this pandemic. As a side note, I would urge all of those protesting as I previously did, to remember to wear face coverings and to try to physically distance yourself. This is not only for your protection, but for others as well.
Governor Ralph Northam: (01:05:01)
We’ve been in phase one for nearly three weeks and our health data continues to look good. Our hospitals did not report any shortage of PPE and we work continuously to help make sure our medical facilities have the PPE that they need. Our hospital bed capacity remained steady. Statewide, the percentage of people hospitalized with a positive or pending COVID test has a slight downward trend.
Governor Ralph Northam: (01:05:34)
Our health data metrics show that testing is increasing and the percent of tests that are positive continues to trend downward. In fact, for Virginia, excluding the northern region, the percent of tests that are positive has shown a generally downward trajectory to around 10% while the number of tests has increased. And now based on that data, I feel comfortable allowing most of Virginia to move into phase two this Friday, which will be June the 5th.
Governor Ralph Northam: (01:06:09)
And I say most of Virginia, Northern Virginia and the city of Richmond will remain in phase one. They only moved into phase one last Friday and we need more time to monitor their health metrics. Accomack County remain in phase zero because of high case numbers due to outbreaks among poultry plant workers. Thanks to rigorous testing, we believe we have that outbreak well under control. Accomack may move into phase two as the rest of Virginia does.
Governor Ralph Northam: (01:06:45)
Phase two will include more flexibility for restaurants, gyms, sports, outdoor entertainment venues, and gatherings of up to 50 people. It means restaurants can have indoor seating again at 50% of their capacity. It means gyms and fitness centers can have indoor classes and workouts at 30% of their capacity and pools can open with some restrictions.
Governor Ralph Northam: (01:07:18)
It means some of our entertainment venues like museums and zoos, botanical gardens and outdoor venues can reopen again with some restrictions. It means recreational sports are allowed with physical distancing requirements and no shared equipment. And it means swimming pools can be open to exercise and swim instruction. But we are still safer at home.
Governor Ralph Northam: (01:07:48)
Gatherings will be limited to 50 people rather than 10. We still strongly encouraged teleworking and physical distancing, and face coverage are required in indoor spaces. We’ll talk about all of this in more depth on Thursday, but the details will be available on our website later today.
Governor Ralph Northam: (01:08:11)
We also know that with more people returning to work, more people will need childcare. I want to thank our childcare providers for providing care for the children of essential workers throughout this pandemic and for the work they continue to do to care for children of working families as we ease restrictions. Our Department of Social Services is sending guidance to our childcare providers so they can prepare particularly around health and safety measures. And we will discuss that more on Thursday as well.
Governor Ralph Northam: (01:08:46)
So thank you all for being with us today. And I will be glad, I think we have a couple callers on the line. I’ll be glad to take their calls or questions.
Speaker 13: (01:08:56)
Yeah. First up is Alan Suderman with Associated Press.
Alan Suderman: (01:09:01)
Good afternoon, governor. At the start of the last legislative session, you said you were still studying what to do with the big Robert E. Lee statue that sits on state property on Monument Avenue. Have you reached a decision about what should be done with it?
Governor Ralph Northam: (01:09:18)
The question is about the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue. Alan, I appreciate the question, but I think just for the audience, the great majority of the statues in Richmond and most of those along Monument Avenue are owned by the city of Richmond. Robert E. Lee’s statue, which is also on monument Avenue is owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia. We introduced and passed legislation this year in the general assembly to allow the locality’s to have discussions regarding these monuments.
Governor Ralph Northam: (01:09:56)
And I supported that and signed that into law. And so as Richmond or any other city has discussions on how to deal with these statues. And there are a lot of options, a lot of discussion has taken place and will continue to take place. I will follow that discussion and really follow the lead of our mayor, our civic council and the people that live in Virginia. Excuse me, the people that live in the city of Richmond.
Speaker 13: (01:10:24)
Next step is Luanne Rife with the Roanoke Times.
Luanne Rife : (01:10:28)
Thank you. Governor, after today the deaths of nearly 800 Virginians from COVID-19 are linked to long-term care. And the figures released yesterday by CMS have the nursing comes to reporting fewer than half that number. If that’s accurate, will the balance of deaths be occurring in assistant living and group homes that are under no public reporting mandates?
Luanne Rife : (01:10:52)
Virginia has continued to refuse not just to name places, but to state which localities and neighborhoods they’re located in. And there’s no information given on race and ethnicity. Will you reconsider your administration’s position and at least begin to report on those localities and demographics of the cases and deaths in these homes?
Governor Ralph Northam: (01:11:12)
Dr. Oliver, do you want to address the nursing home?
Dr. M. Norman Oliver: (01:11:22)
So as I understand the question, it’s whether we will reconsider our policy regarding stating the names and locations of skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities that have outbreaks of COVID-19. And at this time we are not reconsidering that policy. As you know, CMS has issued a rule that skilled nursing facilities will have to report such outbreaks and CMS will be posting those names at some point on one of their sites.
Speaker 13: (01:12:10)
Taylor Coleman with ABC 13 in Lynchburg.
Taylor Coleman: (01:12:15)
Hi Governor. Here in Lynchburg, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr tweeted a [inaudible 01:12:20] mask with the alleged blackface photo from your yearbook page on it. Now this tweet has led to a lot of unrest the last few nights here in Lynchburg. What would you say to Mr. Falwell and your message to the protesters upset with the tweet?
Governor Ralph Northam: (01:12:33)
The question was about a tweet that came from the President of Liberty University regarding the wearing a face mask and what those face masks would look like. I would just say that in response that my background in neurology and in psychiatry is to deal and really help parents deal with their children’s behavior. And child psychology 101 chapter one tells us do not water the weeds, and I would consider the source. Yes. All right. Well, thank you all again and today is Tuesday. We will talk more on Thursday about moving into phase two and also talk about youth sports.
Governor Ralph Northam: (01:13:27)
I had intended to do that today, but we’re going to talk in more detail on Thursday and certainly be able to answer a lot more of your questions as well. So we appreciate you being here. Thanks for your patience and have a good afternoon. Thank you.