Casten Statement on Ongoing Protests Following George Floyd’s Death

June 2, 2020
Press Release

Downers Grove, IL – U.S. Representative Sean Casten (IL-06) released the following statement following the death of George Floyd and a week marked by nationwide protests calling for changes in systemic racial inequities, police brutality, and injustice.

Casten said, “For too long, injustices against people of color have persisted and the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are just the latest in our long national history of oppression- from slavery to Jim Crow to the denial of the right to vote. These recent deaths are tragic in no small part because they are so common. We say the names of the victims: George, Ahmed, Breonna, Trayvon, Eric.  But we know there are far too many more names we don't know. Men and women who were victims of the same institutional racism that took the lives we happened to catch on camera. Racism that has infected all of our institutions, including but not limited to police departments. But we won't solve that problem by blaming all police who do their job with dignity and respect every day for the flaws of a rotten few. We also won't solve that problem by blaming all the protestors who peacefully assembled for the Black Lives Matter movement for the flaws of a rotten few looters. We have to confront the deep-rooted and systemic racism that is the original sin of our great, but still flawed country.

“Americans are angry. I am angry. At this moment, those protesting and demonstrating are showing us the depth of the pain across our country. Taking a knee in peaceful protest gets you branded as unpatriotic if you're a black football player, but three policemen watched in silent complicity when a white cop took a knee to the throat of a black man in a modern day lynching. That's not a fair system, and I sympathize with those who feel abandoned by their government in this moment. I stand with the peaceful protesters who want fundamental change – and we will bring this change by listening, walking in another’s shoes and acknowledging the experiences that have shaped their views. But we also have seen rioting, destruction and violence that is tearing the very fabric of our communities. We must demand equality.  We must demand equal treatment under the law. But we must also recognize that a country of laws is incompatible with a country of frontier justice.  

"This is a dark moment in our history. Our children are watching us. Future generations are watching us. We will be judged in this moment not by how angry we were, but rather by whether we channeled that anger into something greater. Did we fall victim to those forces of evil that would take us backwards, or did we show by our actions a way towards a more perfect union?  Did we allow ourselves to be manipulated by those - including our President, I am ashamed to admit - who would spew destructive hate, or did we instead choose to lead as voices of constructive love? 

"This is a dangerous time, even for those of us who mean no harm. Peaceful protesters exercising their right under the First Amendment were assaulted with tear gas and hit with rubber bullets so the President could get a photo-op. But Martin Luther King Jr. would still be alive today if peaceful protesting was easy. John Lewis wouldn't be the conscience of the Congress if he had stooped to Bull Connor's level. We have the rights we do today because the giants who came before fought peacefully to keep them. We honor their service and sacrifice by following their example.

"We must act now to address the root causes of inequities and reform our justice system so it works for every American. It is up to each of us to contribute to a more equal and just future. I am committed to doing my part and to partnering with people across our Chicago community and my colleagues in Congress to do so. Demand change but lead with love."