Statement by CASA State Directors in Central Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Executive Director

3 June 2020 – As the uprising in Minneapolis continues and cities across the nation join protest over the state-sanctioned murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, CASA’s Central Maryland Director Lydia Walther-Rodriguez, Pennsylvania Director Thais Carrero, Virginia Director Luis Aguilar, and Executive Director Gustavo Torres issued the following statement on behalf of the organization:

“The CASA family expresses our deepest sympathy and stands in solidarity with the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and communities in Minneapolis, Louisville, and nationwide who continue to bear unceasing witness to the devaluing of Black lives by racist policing fueled by a system lacking accountability. The persisting murders of Black lives at the hands of police continue to leave us in a constant state of mourning and a grief that can never be healed. Yet, these recent tragedies serve as a constant reminder of a system with a foundation built on white supremacy that must be dismantled; a system guilty of killing our brothers and sisters in police custody and the same system guilty of deporting and separating our families.

“Sitting between the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor is the five year anniversary of the murder of Freddie Gray; a catastrophic police killing in our city of Baltimore, that produced a grassroots uprising and launched months of advocacy leading the Department of Justice to finally break its silence, open an investigation into the Baltimore City Police Department, and finally record (in its findings) hundreds of unconstitutional policing practices leading to our cities current consent decree.

“Minor state reforms were also passed in the Maryland Law enforcement officers bill of rights (LEOBOR), though the hearings for those reforms came with scores of police, wearing uniforms and carrying guns, flooding into our Maryland State House, and literally laughing in the faces of Black mothers who provided testimony of their sons being murdered by those they called colleagues. The blatant disrespect for Black lives by those in uniform fueled a sustained community movement that continues today in Baltimore, deeply engaging Black and brown residents in negotiations to at least better regulate the police by demanding policy reforms to begin a process of transparency and police accountability.

“While we joined forces in coalitions to fight back against the system and work diligently to reform it, the deaths continue unabated. Leonard Shand in Hyattsville and Robert White in Silver Spring. Korryn Gaines in Randallstown and most recently Finan Berhe in Silver Spring. And now we mourn George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The communities in which CASA members live – from Maryland to Pennsylvania to Virginia – face a crisis of abusive police practices as well. Our communities are subject to constant surveillance but under the majority of state laws no one performs oversight of police, except police. We do not need to look as far as Minneapolis for proof of a system that continues to allow repeatedly brutal and murdering cops on the streets. On the Eastern Shore, an officer was let loose to murder Anton Black, hired in Greensboro, Maryland, despite almost 30 use of force reports from a nearby police department. This is exactly what happens when the police police themselves. How many Amy Coopers need to be caught on video before we acknowledge that policing in this country is weaponized against us, and needs to have structural transformation?

“We will continue to stand with partners in demanding a fundamental restructuring of policing, this is not about a single police officer – good or bad. This is about a system that over-policies traumatized neighborhoods, serves at the whim of racist wrongdoers both individuals and institutions, abhors transparency, and protects its actors regardless of the harm they commit.

“Over the last three decades, State and Federal governments have exponentially increased their budgets on criminalization, policing, deportation, and mass incarceration while dramatically reducing investments in critical infrastructure and social safety net programs. We need to reverse this dramatic equation. We know that to really serve our community it is imperative to provide a dignified wage, increased access to health services, an equitable educational opportunity, and affordable housing – not over-police our communities. How many more white supremacist acts like those in Charlottesville, Virginia need to transpire before others join in challenging societal structures that harm Black lives and fail to uplift black power. How many more Black lives need to die at the hands of police?

“CASA members, together with our partners, will boldly continue to seek justice through collective action to eradicate a system of policing constructed to uphold racist practices. We urge local and state leaders to stand firmly, and support legislation that brings accountability to state-sanctioned murder, brutality, and misconduct and also keeps racist officers, off the force, and off our streets.”