On Juneteenth think about what you can do next

While protestors have spent weeks taking to the streets to speak up about racism and police reform, state legislators have been working on how to come together to start addressing systemic racism as a body. That first step came yesterday in the form of HB 5007, a bill sponsored by Rep. Sandra Hollins, Sen. Luz Escamilla, and Sen. Evan Vickers to ban knee-on-neck chokeholds, which passed by a nearly unanimous vote during the Special Session. Rep. Hollins also read a citation to commemorate Juneteenth, which was made an official state holiday in Utah in 2016.

At a press conference last night, legislators spoke about these actions as only a first step and expressed a willingness to listen. They encouraged protestors and constituents to reach out and communicate directly with their state legislators and work together towards solutions. When a protestor asked how to be involved in policy development in the future, Rep. Hollins replied that they simply need to contact legislators. The press conference was organized by Utah County Senator Jake Anderegg, who admitted he doesn’t hear much about issues of racism in his district and invited community members to communicate with him.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

You’ve made your voices heard in the street; now make your voices heard in the People’s House and beyond. Protesting is one important way to amplify your message. There are many ways to take your advocacy to the next level. This is a time unlike any other. Put some thought into what you can do from here. Here are a few suggestions:

More Information

Juneteenth is a 200-year old nationally celebrated holiday marking the end of slavery in the U.S.

According to Brianna Holt’s New York Times op-ed “Juneteenth is a reminder that freedom wasn’t just handed over”:

On June 19, 1865, two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Union soldiers arrived in Texas to report that the Confederacy had surrendered two months earlier and that enslaved people were now free. Texas was the last state to receive the news. In celebration of the long overdue ending of slavery, black Texans come together every year to remember our ancestors and the harsh treatment they endured for centuries… Juneteenth is a reminder that our freedom was fought for and not just handed over to us. It’s the blueprint for the hundreds of movements that followed to further guarantee that freedom was achieved.”

As Jamelle Bouie stated in his New York Times oped (republished in the Salt Lake Tribune today), “Why Juneteenth Matters”:

“Juneteenth may mark just one moment in the struggle for emancipation, but the holiday gives us an occasion to reflect on the profound contributions of enslaved black Americans to the cause of human freedom. It gives us another way to recognize the central place of slavery and its demise in our national story. And it gives us an opportunity to remember that American democracy has more authors than the shrewd lawyers and erudite farmer-philosophers of the Revolution, that our experiment in liberty owes as much to the men and women who toiled in bondage as it does to anyone else in this nation’s history.”

HB 5007 Peace Officer Amendments

This bill, sponsored by Rep. Sandra Hollins (D-Salt Lake) and floor sponsored by Sens. Luz Escamilla (D-Salt Lake) and Evan Vickers (R-Cedar City):

  • bans police officers from using “knee-on-neck” chokeholds
  • prohibits Utah’s police academy or local agencies from teaching new officers how to use chokeholds, carotid restraints or “any act that impedes the breathing or circulation of blood likely to produce a loss of consciousness” as a valid form of restraint — but doesn’t outright ban officers from using them
  • says officers would be investigated by a county attorney if they do use a prohibited knee-on-neck chokehold

Read the bill language and listen to recordings of the debate and vote here.

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