Oregon’s federal lawmakers talk race and U.S. law

MEDFORD, Ore. – Oregon’s federal legislators are working on their own legislation, in response to the George Floyd tragedy.

“It’s not enough to say black lives matter. It’s not enough to walk in the street,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley.

The killing of George Floyd is sparking a nationwide outcry for police policy reform on the federal level. Lawmakers across both aisles are working on possible legislation addressing concern over racial discrimination within U.S. society.

“There’s a desire to be involved,” said Sen. Ron Wyden.

Democrats in the senate have introduced the Justice in Policing Act of 2020.

“It brings some much needed transparency and accountability to the law enforcement field. It’s long overdue,” said Sen. Wyden.

As proposed, it would tighten use of force protocols on the local and state level. If passed, it would ban actions, such as choke holds and no-knock warrants, which allow police to enter a home without announcing their presence. A situation that lead to the death of 26-year old African American EMT Breonna Taylor this year.

“You’re in your house and suddenly someone is busting the door down. And for all you know they are some criminal coming after you in the sanctuary of your own home,” said Sen. Merkley.

Both Senators Merkley and Wyden agree there needs to be a bi-partisan effort, in order for change to happen. Republican Representative Greg Walden echoes that.

“There is no doubt about it – the killing of George Floyd was more than a senseless tragedy, it was an unconscionable act of depravity. I join those who have raised their voice in protest of this brutality and in the call for reform.  Peaceful protest is an important underpinning of a free society and can help bring greater understanding of the problems that need resolution in America. Likewise, we must always condemn violence, whether that is the violence that was used against George Floyd or the violent acts of looting and destruction across our nation; acts that Mr. Floyd himself had condemned in the past. Americans have the right to peacefully protest, but we do not have the right to commit violent, criminal acts of assaulting others, looting stores and burning public property and buildings.  The violence and looting tear us further apart.  We must come together to overcome social injustice and end bigotry through respectful and thoughtful dialogue and meaningful action.  Working together we can realize our shared vision: equal opportunity and justice for all.”

Whether the two sides can find common ground in either the Democrat-led house or Republican-led senate remains to be seen. Senators Merkley and Wyden say they hope something can be passed before congress recesses.

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