Sen. Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville) wants racial justice reform to emerge from the protests in Tennessee and nationwide.
On Saturday, Sen. Gilmore addressed thousands gathered together seeking justice for George Floyd in a peaceful protest at War Memorial Plaza near the Tennessee Capitol Building. The death of Floyd, a Minnesota man who was the victim of lethal police brutality, has been a rallying point for advocates of racial justice.
Sen. Gilmore, in calling for new reforms, released this statement:
“On Saturday, I had the great privilege and honor of addressing thousands of people at War Memorial Plaza,” said Gilmore. “People from all walks of life and from many backgrounds came together, uniting for a common purpose.
“We said with one voice that Black Lives Matter. We said George Floyd’s life has value. And justice must be done.
“I want to commend our community advocates who organized this peaceful rally. It was a remarkable, unity event.
“I also want to address what took place afterward. People (carrying spray paint and lighter fluid, people who had no intention of joining a peaceful call for action) took out their frustrations on our city.
“I do not condone arson and vandalism, and I never will. But I do understand their hopelessness, despair and frustration. At a time when justice is needed so desperately, I want to challenge them to place that energy into positive change for our community.
“I also want us to lift up the work of police officers who defend justice and practice fairness. They deserve our support and every department would benefit from focused reforms that help police better serve the needs of our community and weed out bad actors.
“Here are several reforms we will begin working on in Tennessee:
- Implicit bias training: Every officer should be trained on ways to help combat their biases.
- More transparency: In addition to video body cameras, police records should be made more accessible to the public.
- Higher standards — and better pay: The state should adopt guidelines and licensing standards that put strong requirements in place to check for the skills and characteristics we expect of police—and we should increase starting pay to attract high-quality candidates.
“The actions of bad actors should not define the whole, and, in this moment, we cannot allow the actions of a few bad actors (whether protesters or police) to distract from the important goal of equality and justice.
“We cannot undo what has been done, but we must learn from past mistakes. And we would do well to correct injustice urgently.”