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Hoyer Remarks at Press Conference on the Emmett Till Antilynching Act

For Immediate Release: Contact Info:

February 26, 2020 Mariel Saez 202-225-3130


WASHINGTON, DC – Today, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke at a press conference on H.R. 35, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, which is being considered on the House Floor today. He was joined by Representative Bobby L. Rush (IL-01), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), and Chairwoman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Karen Bass (CA-37) at the press conference. Below is a transcript of his remarks. “Thank you very much. [Rep.] Bobby Rush and I are close and dear friends and have been for many years. [Chairwoman] Karen [Bass], I was at an event some two years ago, and… Joe Madison, who has a radio program, said: ‘why can’t you guys pass the anti-lynching bill?’ And I didn’t have an answer. Shortly thereafter, I… talked to the Chairman of the [Congressional Black Caucus], and I talked to Bobby who had a bill, and I talked to Karen. I said, Karen, why can’t we pass an antilynching bill? And I didn’t have an answer. “Lynching is a blot on the history of America. The even greater blot is the silence, that for too long [was] maintained in the context of what people knew was happening. Emmett Till was murdered on August 28, 1955, just eight years before the March on Washington. And as Congressman Rush has said, his brutal, vicious murder was, of course, a crime, but it was… not defined as not just against Emmett Till, but against a whole race of people. That’s what a hate crime is, motivated by the dehumanization of others, so that treating them in whatever way you want to treat them is justifiable. “The fact of the matter is there was a trial. They knew who killed him. The husband of a woman who, Emmett Till from Chicago had walked by, and [the husband] said he did this, that, or the other – until years later the woman said, no, that did not happen. “This bill is too late coming, but it is never too late to do the right thing. It will take the long overdue action of designating lynching as a federal hate crime. I am proud to bring this bill to the Floor. Karen, thank you so much for the work that you did to make sure we had an agreement, came to consensus, and got this bill. Bobby Rush, thank you for so long sponsoring this bill and telling that story that you just told, which ought to compel all of us to act. “For generations, African Americans and other minorities were terrorized by lynching, and their memory and symbolism is still used today to intimidate and frighten. That’s what these were about, to terrorize others so that they would not seek redress of grievances – you know, that’s in the Constitution. But this was intimidation. Lynching means the premeditated, extrajudicial killing by a mob or group of people in order to instill fear. That’s its definition if you go to the dictionary. “Today, we will send a strong message that these actions have no place in the United States of America. It is fitting that we are naming this bill in memory of Emmett Till, a young man of 14 years of age, who was visiting his family in Mississippi. I’ve been to the church. Bobby, I don’t know whether you were with us on that particular trip, but [with] John Lewis and the Faith and Politics [Institute], I’ve been to the church where Emmett Till’s family went to church, not too far from where he was murdered and then thrown into the Tallahatchie River. There was a trial about two weeks later. Of course, an all-white jury found the two defendants not guilty. Emmett Till’s mom, as Bobby Rush has pointed out, had the courage to shake America and say: look, this is what hate does. “Martin Luther King said don’t be so worried about the words of your opponents as by the silence of your friends. We’re not going to be silent today. Today, it is a powerful reminder of the consequences of hate and racism. “Jerry Nadler, thank you for your leadership and working to get this bill in a place where we can get it to the Floor and passed today and passed in the Senate, we hope by the end of the week. The House will pass this bill. I want to thank Senators Booker and Harris for their hard work on the issue in the Senate as well. “Let us mark Black History Month not only with our observances of an action to correct a historic injustice, but also to send a strong message against hate. Now, I want to yield to my dear friend and the Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler.”

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