With the parents of Tyre Nichols in attendance for the State of the Union address, President Joe Biden renewed the call for police accountability and the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
The legislation bans chokeholds and no-knock warrants in certain cases, mandates data collection on police encounters, and alters qualified immunity for law enforcement officers.
RowVaughn Wells, Nichols’ mother, and Rodney Wells, his stepfather, sat attentively during the joint session at the invitation of Congressional Black Caucus Chair Steven Horsford (D-Nevada). Since the cops in the Nichols case didn’t stop other officers from beating him up and they didn’t rush to help him, lawmakers have talked about adding a clause that says an officer must stop excessive or deadly force.
After the Nichols killing, eight Memphis police officers were terminated, and five were charged with second-degree murder and other offenses.
The NAACP, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), and other Black-led or owned organizations have demanded police accountability. Led by President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., the NNPA is the trade association of more than 238 African American newspapers and media companies in the United States.
Biden also pledged that the Department of Health and Human Services would increase funding to recruit future mental health professionals from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and to expand its Minority Fellowship Program.
He pleaded with Republicans that he wants to work together instead of “fighting for the sake of fighting.”
During his speech, the president talked about jobs for the middle class, cancer research, the situation of veterans, and making America safer.
“To my Republican friends, if we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can’t work together in this new Congress,” Biden commanded. “The people sent us a clear message. Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, and conflict for the sake of conflict get us nowhere.
“And that’s always been my vision for the country: to restore the soul of the nation, to rebuild the backbone of America: the middle class, to unite the country. We’ve been sent here to finish the job.”
The president also spoke passionately about his economic plan, which includes “investing in forgotten places and people” and “building an economy where no one is left behind.”
Biden plans to call an end to the COVID-19 emergency in May, and during the State of the Union, he painted a positive picture of the country’s economic recovery.
He also assured those in need that he understood their predicament. “Amid the economic upheaval of the past four decades, too many people have been left behind or treated like they’re invisible,” the president stated.
“Maybe that’s you watching at home. You remember the jobs that went away. And you wonder whether a path even exists anymore for you and your children to get ahead without moving away. I get it.”
The president described America’s story as one of “progress and resilience.”
“We are the only country that has emerged from every crisis stronger than when we entered it,” he asserted. “That is what we are doing again. Two years ago, our economy was reeling. As I stand here tonight, we have created a record 12 million new jobs—more jobs created in two years than any president has ever created in four years.”
He continued: “Two years ago, COVID had shut down our businesses, closed our schools, and robbed us of so much. Today, COVID no longer controls our lives. And two years ago, our democracy faced its greatest threat since the Civil War. Today, though bruised, our democracy remains unbowed and unbroken.”
Biden stated that his economic plan focuses on investing in forgotten places and people.
Too many people have been left behind or treated as invisible during the past four decades of economic upheaval, according to the president. “Maybe that’s you watching at home. You remember the jobs that went away,” he remarked.
“And you wonder whether a path even exists anymore for you and your children to get ahead without moving away. I get it. That’s why we’re building an economy where no one is left behind. Jobs are coming back; pride is coming back because of the choices we made in the last two years. This is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America and make a real difference in your lives.”
Finally, the Democrat appealed to the GOP. “To my Republican friends, if we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can’t work together in this new Congress,” Biden said.
Stacy M. Brown is the NNPA Newswire national senior correspondent.
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