The Environmental Justice Law Society (EJLS) released this statement today to the Vermont Law School community:
After the crude and heinous murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, millions of Americans and communities in solidarity abroad filled the streets to express their frustration and outrage. To some, these protests are dangerous, frightening, and a threat to public health, especially amidst a pandemic. However, we believe these protests in that context emulate the gravity of the situation. The United States of America, founded on stolen land and built on the backs of slaves, has bolstered and promoted white supremacy and systematic racism for hundreds of years. The government, designed to protect the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of its citizens, perpetually oppresses people of color — from access to healthcare to education, job opportunities to clean drinking water. Compounded with the murders of Floyd, Taylor, and Arbery, communities of color, specifically Black Americans, face disproportionate fatality rates in this pandemic. According to recent studies African Americans maintain the highest fatality rate of 50.3 per 100,000 people, compared with 20.7 for whites, 22.9 for Latinxs, and 22.7 for Asian Americans. We believe such numbers are unacceptable simply because Black Lives Matter!
The Environmental Justice Law Society (EJLS) aims to promote the health and welfare of all people, but more importantly to alleviate the burdens faced by low-income communities and communities of color. On behalf of the EJLS, we signatories stand with the communities most impacted by the injustices perpetuated by our government: Black Americans and People of Color. We stand with peaceful protestors exercising their constitutional rights for basic human rights. We stand with community leaders and organizations dedicated to removing social and racial boundaries and burdens. We stand for permanent and lasting reforms to our judicial system and police forces in advancement of equality.
We know meaningful action follows peaceful protests. Thus, we demand elected officials at local, state, and federal levels develop and implement laws and regulations to protect the most vulnerable. We demand our state and federal representatives create laws to hold police departments accountable for taking the lives of Black men and women. We demand state and federal prosecutors enact immediate justice reform that emphasizes proper and thorough investigation in decisions related to police transgressions. We demand local and federal judges implement proper discretion in decisions and sentences, with principles of restorative justice at the forefront of their minds. To upend the deeply embedded white supremacy within our systems, we demand these actions to dismantle the injustices and inequalities faced by Black Americans and People of Color. State educated. Stay safe. Stay loud.
Jameson C. Davis, Co-Chair
Kendall Keelen, Co-Chair
Sierra Suafoa-McClain, Secretary
Emma Fisk, Treasurer
Published with permission from the EJLS E-board