Barbara Lee on Oscar Grant and First Step Act

Congresswoman Lee marks the 10th anniversary of Oscar Grant’s murder

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by Rep. Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee delivers the keynote address at the Oscar Grant Legacy Weekend on Feb. 27, 2016. Gathered at First AME Church by Uncle Bobby’s Love Not Blood Campaign were families from across the country of young Black men murdered by law enforcement. Lee comforted and encouraged them recognizing their pain and courage.

Ten years ago, Oscar Grant was tragically and needlessly killed by an officer at the Fruitvale BART station.

Oscar was a beloved member of our East Bay community. He was a loving father, a loyal friend and a kind neighbor. My heart is with his family, friends and loved ones who are missing him dearly today.

Over the last decade, communities like mine have lost far too many Black men to police violence. Since Oscar’s passing, the list of young African American men killed by police officers has grown even longer, from Michael Brown, to Tamir Rice, to Eric Garner, to Mario Woods here in the Bay Area and Stephon Clark in Sacramento.

Over the last decade, communities like mine have lost far too many Black men to police violence.

Let me be clear: The majority of our nation’s police officers serve our communities with compassion and sensitivity. Still, a decade after Oscar’s passing, Black and Brown people – especially African American men – remain disproportionately impacted by police violence.

Today, I join our community in mourning Oscar Grant and remembering his life. I pray for his family and his loved ones who are still grieving. And I pledge to honor his memory by fighting for police reforms that empower our communities and repair the broken trust between our police departments and the communities they serve.

Note: Today, Dec. 31, 2018, Congresswoman Lee penned an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle reflecting on Oscar Grant and the work left to do to make our justice system fairer for all. Read the full article here.

First Step Act addresses mass incarceration crisis

For decades, our criminal justice system has disproportionately targeted communities of color – particularly Black and Brown women and men. While this is not a perfect bill, I support the First Step Act because it will take long overdue action to address our country’s mass incarceration crisis.

I am pleased that the revised legislation includes concrete sentencing reforms to reduce mandatory minimums and address disparities between crack and powder cocaine convictions. It also effectively ends federal juvenile solitary confinement and bans the shackling of pregnant women.

While this is not a perfect bill, I support the First Step Act because it will take long overdue action to address our country’s mass incarceration crisis.

But while I support this bill, I do have concerns about several provisions in the legislation. The First Step Act does not address police brutality, nor does it include parole reforms for juveniles serving life sentences in federal prison.

This bill unfortunately continues to exclude too many people from earning time credits, and continues to allow for-profit companies to get rich off of mass incarceration.

Accordingly, it is my hope that the First Step Act will be exactly that – the beginning of a larger effort by Congress to address these issues and fix our broken criminal justice system. I am proud of my colleagues who have worked hard to craft this legislation and build bipartisan support for criminal justice reform.

If we work together, we can rebuild the lives and communities hollowed out by decades of over-policing and underinvestment.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee may be reached at her Oakland office, 510-763-0370.

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