RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The head of the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP said Friday that the organization is demanding that lawmakers advance measures to reform policing and the state’s criminal justice system and declare “racism as a public health crisis” during next week’s special session.
In a virtual press conference, Robert Barnette, the president of both the Virginia State Conference NAACP and the Hanover County NAACP, called on legislators to address police accountability and racial bias in law enforcement.
“What we’ve witnessed across the nation is an unprecedented response to the killing of George Floyd. His death has awakened in all of us the necessity of now to make lasting and meaning reform to policing and our criminal justice system,” Barnette said in his opening remarks. “That along with the effects of the coronavirus, an historic pandemic, has exposed the institutional and systemic racism pervasive in our systems within our criminal justice system. The Commonwealth of Virginia is not immune to the effects racism and it must be addressed now.”
Barnette said he considers enacting a statewide ban on chokeholds and prohibiting no-knock warrants as top priorities for the upcoming special session. Virginia House Democrats listed both as priorities, among several others, when the caucus unveiled its agenda for the session on Thursday.
Other states have already declared racism as a public health crisis in the wake of Floyd’s killing, including Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin.