Like Americans the world over, I am pained to the core by the death of George Floyd and for all those who continue to suffer the consequences of racism and discrimination.
As President Trump said: “The death of George Floyd was a grave tragedy and should never have happened. It has filled Americans all over the country with horror, anger, and grief.”
Our Nation’s fundamental values, enshrined in the words of our Constitution and Declaration of Independence, demand that we reject this evil. We have not always lived up to those ideals, but it is a task that generations of Americans past and present have committed to. Recent events highlight that the fight is far from over.
As a country governed by the rule of law, the United States’ justice system is taking action to seek accountability for Mr. Floyd’s tragic death, including through ongoing investigations at the federal and state levels. When the United States demands that security forces around the world are held accountable for their actions, we mean our own as well. No one is above the law. Minnesota authorities have charged one former police officer with murder for Mr. Floyd’s death and three others with abetting it. These former officers are entitled to a speedy and public trial by a jury of their fellow citizens. Attorney General Barr has announced a federal civil rights investigation into George Floyd’s death.
Although our laws provide protections against racial discrimination, discrimination and the legacy of slavery is an unfortunate part of the United States’ history and an all-too-present reality for many Americans. Our Constitution expressly protects the right of peaceable assembly and to petition for a redress of grievances. Throughout American history, our people have gathered peacefully to protest injustice and to demand accountability from our leaders and to effect change. While there are some who use the right to peaceful protest as a cover for destruction and criminal activity, many in the United States are peacefully exercising their right to peaceful protest to address the challenges our society faces.
Although these challenges are difficult to address, the United States and free and open societies everywhere are always strengthened through the debates produced through our citizens exercising their right to free speech and held accountable through freedom of the press and the rule of law. Every day in the United States, tens of thousands of police officers respect, protect, and uphold the civil rights of individuals and communities across the country while carrying out the difficult and dangerous work of keeping our communities safe.
The United States is proud of the role we have played in defending and advancing human rights and fundamental freedoms around the world for generations. Governments that take human rights seriously are transparent and welcome conversations – however difficult – about making improvements, addressing our challenges, and ensuring that justice for all means all.