Thursday, April 30, 2015

Press Statement from NBCSL President Catherine Pugh

NBCSL Press Statement 043015I want to thank The National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) and members of the Board of Directors who stood in withMaryland Legislators and Corporate Board members in solidarity with Baltimoreans protesting over the death of Freddie Gray whodied in the custody of police.

I want to be clear—neither I nor NBCSL condone the violence or the havoc that occurred when a small group of looted stores and burned buildings in our city. I understand frustration, but there were those who became opportunist and took away from many of our communities’ access to food and the prescription drugs they need. This was wrong.

For three days, I have stood on the corner of my neighborhood and watched our city turn into a police state. I have experienced every emotion that one can have under these circumstances. I began with a plea through the media on Monday for parents to come and get their children and take them home.

Each night with Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), as we came near the 10 p.m. curfew time imposed on the city by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake, we urged the community to obey the curfew and return to their homes. For the most part, community protestors demonstrated peacefully with very few incidences.

The incident with the police that led to the death of “Freddie Gray” raises many issues in America. Some that we talked about at our board meeting in Baltimore on last Saturday— just hours before protests turned violent at Camden Yards—that will be part of our upcoming annual legislative conference December 2-5 in Los Angeles. Among those issues are race relations in America, criminal justice reforms, wealth building, economic deprivation, urban blight and neglect that most of us get to see and experience by virtue of our positions.

I am proud of the solidarity marches around the country in cities such as New York, Washington, Boston and others. America has a race problem that has resulted in so many inequities. African Americans are overrepresented in our prison system, yet disproportionately represented in the wealth building opportunities in our country. From private industry to government opportunities, whether it is rebuilding our roads and communities, creating alternative energy or investing our local, state and federal pension funds to name a few, African Americans are underrepresented.

America must do better—and as an organization dedicated to educating and speaking on behalf of fairness for our communities, we are obligated to address these issues.

I urge all members of NBCSL to examine their state’s incarceration rates. Almost two million people in this country are being incarcerated at a cost $30,000 to $60,000 per inmate a year. The cost of incarceration rivals, and in many cases exceeds, the cost of a college education.

The Department of Justice has launched an investigation into the cause of Freddie Gray’s death and NBCSL supports the investigation. Everyone has a role in the integrity of this process and restoration of public trust and our judicial system. NBCSL will remain vigilant and accessible to federal, state and local authorities to ensure a fair process on behalf the Gray family, specifically and the African American community at-large.”

I look forward to us continuing to raise these issues and elevating the discussion of “Race Relations in America.”

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Senator Catherine E. Pugh (MD)

The National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) primary mission is to develop, conduct and promote educational, research and training programs designed to enhance the effectiveness of its members, as they consider legislation and issues of public policy which impact, either directly or indirectly upon "the general welfare" of African American constituents within their respective jurisdictions.
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