Louisiana’s John Bel Edwards (D) is the nation’s first governor to sign a “Blue Lives Matter” bill into law. Who could have imagined that a Democrat would be the first to sign such a vile piece of legislation into law, one that codifies minority status to what is a choice in vocation? Who could have imagined that a Democrat would lend his power to the further subjugation of African Americans in one of the most racist states in the nation?
That is precisely what Bel Edwards did on the day Alton Sterling, a 37 year old father of five, was mercilessly murdered by police outside a store in Baton Rouge. The UK’s The Guardian posted new footage shot by the store owner, an immigrant from Yemen, depicting the officers retrieving a weapon from the deceased Sterling’s body.
“The clip cuts away just before Sterling, who is struggling on the ground, is shot, but the audio reveals what appear to be two bursts of shots. As the video focuses back on Sterling, he is seen with a large pool of blood on his chest. One officer then appears to reach into Sterling’s pocket and pull out a firearm as Sterling slowly moves his arm towards his head. The video then cuts off.”
In comments, authorities explained the existence of only partial footage from an officer’s police cam was that it was reportedly “dislodged.” Be aware, both the footage from The Guardian and the video from YouTube are very violent and graphic.
Governor John Bel Edwards, Louisiana’s new Democratic governor made a conscious choice to sign into law the nation’s first Blue Lives Matter bill. CNN quoted the governor as saying:
“Coming from a family of law enforcement officers, I have great respect for the work that they do and the risks they take to ensure our safety,” Edwards said Thursday, adding, “They deserve every protection that we can give them.”
This Blue Lives Matter bill, which was opposed by civil rights groups, isn’t only wrong in that it grants minority status to certain civil servants based on their vocation, but further punishes a mostly African American segment of the population by adding fines and jail time to a type of offense that is often used against African Americans as a pretext for arrest. CNN also reported on how this new bill affects existing laws:
“If a defendant is convicted of a hate crime, additional penalties are tacked on to the sentence; in Louisiana, that could mean up to five more years in prison with hard labor and a $5,000 fine for felonies such as murder, assault and battery, rape, etc. For a misdemeanor, it could be another six months in prison and a $500 fine.”
Knowing how police all over the nation have been using the pretext of civilian “threats” to make stops and arrests, we can anticipate that this new law will have the effect of Ferguson on steroids until the Supreme Court strikes it down.
Applying to the police academy and then becoming a law enforcement officer is a choice, just as becoming a firefighter or EMT are vocational choices one can make. That choice comes with risks for which cops, firefighters and EMTs are well remunerated. One can always stop being a cop, whereas recipients of hate crimes, by definition, can neither change nor cease to be who they are.
This kind of law allows prosecutors to shirk their duty to serve citizens first. Their reluctance to prosecute law enforcement officers is a choice, just like Bel Edwards’ signing of this law was a choice he gladly made.
Blue Lives Matter was conjured to be the racist counter to the civil rights efforts of Black Lives Matter by a national association of law enforcement officers. That racist effort must not only be repudiated by all decent citizens, but defeated in any and all legislatures that attempt to enact it into law. Democrats who actively aid in the enactment of this law should be censured. As Louisiana’s first Democrat, a member of the DNC and superdelegate,
Bel Edwards is a prime example of the kind of Democrat the party should not tolerate among its ranks. He is hardly alone in this kind of thinking. Another Democratic governor who comes to mind is Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri and his behavior during and after the events in Ferguson. Governor Edwards’ neoliberal understanding of what constitutes justice is just one more reason so many progressives are taking a very critical look at the Democratic party.
2016 should not end with a similar number of police deaths as its predecessors. This political season is one in which movements for civil rights should redouble their efforts to influence not only Democratic party policy through its platform, but confront all of the candidates running under the party’s banner, from Hillary Clinton to the very last candidates down-ballot and exact campaign commitments for racial and criminal justice.
In this new progressive awakening we are experiencing this political season, there is vast opportunity for movements for civil rights to link up with progressive movements for change and, together, expand their platforms. Together, we must seize this moment in time and capitalize on new opportunities to form cross-racial alliances and open the scope of activism and intensify it.
Black Lives do Matter and many more of us need to be out there fighting for an end to police brutality and an expansion of rights to which the police state is not entitled.
John Bel Edwards is a comatose, anti-civil cights neoliberal Democrat at best, or a racist white Louisianan at worst. Either way, he has no place in a party that purports to work for civil rights.