By Jon Queally, staff writer
In a video message posted to Instagram last Saturday amidst days of nationwide protest in response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez issued a plea to anyone calling for the end of the “unrest” stirred by brutality and oppression to focus on the root causes of poverty, distrust, and violence in American society.
“If you are calling for an end to this unrest… and if you are calling for an end to all of this, but you are not calling for the end of the conditions that created the unrest, you are a hypocrite,” Ocasio-Cortez said in the post.
“If you’re trying to call for the end of unrest, but you don’t believe healthcare is a human right. If you’re afraid to say Black Lives Matter. If you’re too scared to call out police brutality—then you aren’t asking for an end of unrest. You are asking for injustice to continue and for your people to continue to endure the violence of poverty, the violence of lack of housing access, the violence of police brutality and not say a damn thing. That’s what you’re asking for.”
“So if you’re out here,” she continued, “calling for the end of unrest, then you better be calling for healthcare as a human right, you better be calling for accountability in our policing, you better be supporting community review boards, you better be supporting the end of housing discrimination, you better be standing up to for-profit real estate developers that are intimidating people and trying to evict them from their homes—that’s what you better be calling for. Because if you don’t call for those things and you’re asking for the end of unrest—all you’re asking for is the continuation of quiet oppression.”
“We have to really examine why so many people were okay ignoring these problems until a window got broken. Why does it take that for people to pay attention? Because it shouldn’t.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Ocasio-Cortez said lawmakers, politicians, and anyone else making such calls must make sure that there is no demand for an end of protest that is not coupled with demands for “measures that actually liberate people in their lives from the oppression of economic and social inequity.”
Allowing people to struggle and die within unjust systems, said Ocasio-Cortez, is “just wrong” and should no longer be tolerated. She said none of her remarks are meant to condone the violence and property destruction by some people amid the protests in cities nationwide, but that her intent is to ask people to consider a more “holistic view of this moment” and recognize that only by centering justice and recognizing the broader systemic failures can peace and prosperity be shared by all.
As of this writing, the video had been viewed hundreds of thousands of times between Instagram and other social media platforms where it was shared.
“We have to really examine why so many people were okay ignoring these problems until a window got broken,” she said. “Why does it take that for people to pay attention? Because it shouldn’t.”
Instead of calls for things to simply calm down and “go back to normal,” said Ocasio-Cortez, “let’s create a new world—one where all people are held to the same standard of the rule of law. And one where the justice a person gets for their crimes is not dependent on who they work for or how much money they have, but by the actual deed that was done.”
A world like, she concluded, “that is what justice looks like.”
Jon Queally, is a Staff Writer with Common Dreams.
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