WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, as communities across the nation celebrate and observe Juneteenth, an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) reaffirmed the call for justice and long-term changes to dismantle systemic racism. ‘Juneteenth,’ also known as ‘Juneteenth Independence Day,’ is an annual holiday commemorating June 19, 1865, the day Union soldiers delivered news to the people of Galveston, Texas that the U.S. Civil War was over and that the era of legal slavery in the United States had come to an end. Upon their arrival, two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the troops took control of the state and ensured that all enslaved people were freed.

“As we mark Juneteenth, a day commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, we must be mindful of the detrimental effects slavery has had on Black Americans for generations,”  said Brown. “We have to acknowledge that the racial injustices we’re seeing today are a direct result of slavery and its legacy, deeply engrained in the fabric of this country. We have a lot of work to do. Our response now must be to demand justice for all Black lives lost to police brutality, stand with Black and Brown communities demanding justice, and work together to find long-term solutions to dismantle the systems of oppression found in every aspect of communities of color from housing to healthcare.”

The Senate passed Brown’s resolution this week, designating June 19, 2020 as “Juneteenth Independence Day” the anniversary of the day Union soldiers delivered the news to the people of Galveston, Texas. Brown has sponsored the Senate resolution for several years. This week, Brown also joined Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) in introducing the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Brown took to the Senate floor earlier this month, condemning President Trump’s violent response to protests of the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other victims of racist police brutality and systemic injustice. Brown pointed out that Black and Brown communities have been and remain marginalized and targeted and that protests sweeping Ohio and the nation are calling for an end to systemic racism.

This month, Brown helped introduce the Justice in Policing Act, a comprehensive package that puts important policing reforms into place, helps ends racial profiling in the criminal justice system and works to improve police-community relations.

Specifically, the Justice in Policing Act would:

  • Ban chokeholds, carotid holds and no-knock warrants at the federal level and limits the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement.
  • Establish a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problematic officers who are fired or leave an agency from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability.
  • Mandate the use of dashboard cameras and body cameras for federal officers and requires state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras.
  • Create law enforcement development and training programs to develop best practices and requires the creation of law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations based on President Obama’s Task force on 21st Century policing.
  • Make important legal reforms to increase police accountability and transparency.

The package also includes Brown’s End Racial and Religious Profiling Act, which would better enforce equal protection laws and work to end racial profiling in the criminal justice system. 

In the coming days, Brown is set to introduce a Senate resolution declaring racism a public health crisis, which has been recognized by communities throughout Ohio. Brown’s resolution will acknowledge that health care disparities have existed in America for centuries, recognize how those disparities are being magnified and exacerbated today during the Coronavirus pandemic, and acknowledge systemic barriers that people of color, especially African Americans, continue to face when seeking care, including implicit biases and overall access to the social determinants of health.