Ayanna Pressley: 'Roots of policing' linked to slave patrols

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Ayanna Pressley said the “roots of policing” are “inextricably linked” to the slave patrols of the pre-Civil War United States.

“The roots of policing are inextricably linked to the antebellum slave patrols of the South that led to the establishment of all-white police departments, and since the Fugitive Slave Act, criminal law enforcement has meant the subjugation and dehumanization of black lives,” the freshman congresswoman said at a House hearing.

The hearing, held by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, was meant to address “the presence of white supremacists in local police departments.”

“After the Civil War, police departments and local governments throughout the country were saturated with Klu Klux Klan members and sympathizers who refused to intervene in their campaign of terror, and by the early 20th century, the KKK had over 1 million members,” Pressley told the committee.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 made the federal government responsible for locating and returning fugitive slaves, required local law enforcement to assist in the capture of slaves, and made assisting fugitive slaves a crime.

Pressley supports defunding police and has said the movement is “about true reparations.”

“Why are we deploying the police when there is an individual who’s battling mental illness? We should be deploying a mental health clinician,” Pressley told Time magazine. “Why are our police officers administering Narcan, when we should be investing in on-demand treatment, substance use, and culturally competent care?”

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