Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing backlash after urging for “equal protection of the law” for people across all demographics.
“When Black Americans tell us they do not feel safe in their own communities, we need to listen. When citizens lack faith in our justice system, we need to respond. And when the equal protection of the law feels to some Americans like a contingency of demographics, we need to act,” he wrote.
Some social media users felt that the Kentucky Republican’s statement clashed with some of his previous statements and actions. Users posted a link to a recent piece by Politico in which McConnell pushed back against calls to remove Confederate statues from the Capitol.
Other users posted an image of the Republican leader posing in front of a Confederate flag in the 1990s at a Sons of Confederate Veterans event as evidence that he wasn’t serious about equal treatment of all Americans.
Just going to leave this right here. pic.twitter.com/hPmAfZ2QuA— Kentucky Democrats (@KyDems) February 8, 2017
For many, the Confederate flag has become a symbol of entrenched racism in the U.S.
“DEEDS, not more empty words from you,” one person captioned the photo.
But others supported McConnell’s message, saying that the recent demonstrations against police violence had resulted in law enforcement officials feeling threatened.
“And when police don’t feel safe ordering food for fear of it being tainted, or being fired for doing their job because someone doesn’t like the justified outcome, we must support and protect THEM too,” wrote one user.
Both Republicans and Democrats have been facing calls to address systemic racism and to reform policing in the U.S. after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. Floyd’s death touched off protests across the country.
While many progressives have supported movements to defund, regulate, or reform police departments, some conservatives have pushed back, calling for an increase in spending for law enforcement. McConnell has also been accused of not supporting legislation that would prohibit the use of chokeholds by cops, a sometimes deadly practice that has come under scrutiny in recent days.
On Wednesday, McConnell said that the Senate would be taking action soon to address police reform, as CNN reported.
McConnell told Democrats that he’d like their cooperation in moving forward with the legislation as a show of unity over politics. The Senate leader needs at least seven Democrats to get on board with the bill in order to advance it.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer pushed back on the legislation, saying that they’d only had a few hours to look it over, but “what’s clear is that the Senate Republican proposal on policing does not rise to the moment.”
He suggested that they’d be willing to reach a compromise.
House Democrats have crafted their own police overhaul bill that is expected to be reviewed by the House Judiciary Committee today.