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Beto O’Rourke was winning hearts among Black voters.
In August, he took a bold step in expressing his support for NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality against the Black community. His popularity was rising during his campaign against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), with a 97 percent lead among Black voters. Prominent voices like LeBron James and Beyoncé publicly supported him. He even reportedly drew the largest crowd on a campaign trail since former President Barack Obama.
But just a year before gaining popularity, he voted for a bill that seemingly counters the mission of the Black Lives Matter movement. The Thin Blue Line Act, introduced in March 2017, calls for death penalty to anyone who kills or attempts killing “a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or other first responder.” The legislation has been denounced by civil rights organizations, and the Hill called it “misguided and needlessly duplicative.”
The American Civil Liberties Union opposed it soon after it was introduced, calling it “duplicative and unnecessary.”
“At a time when our country needs to rebuild relations between law enforcement and communities, particularly communities of color, the Thin Blue Line Act creates even more divisions,” it said in a statement back in 2017. “The Thin Blue Line Act does not enhance police-community relations or public safety.”
A policy director at the Legal Defense and Education Fund also called it “misguided” and urged people “to learn about and work to implement some of the reforms that will transform policing to the benefit of all.”
The act was also criticized for being a measure of support for law enforcement officials in the face of protests against police brutality. It is deemed especially concerning for communities of color since they are disproportionately affected by both police brutality and capital punishment.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of 200 national organizations, said the act doesn’t take into account this disparity, pointing out that even though there are statistically more Black victims of homicide, the majority of people getting capital punishment are for killing white victims. At the same time, Black people make up the majority of people on death row.
It appears contradictory, then, that despite his open remarks about the NFL players taking a knee which implied a strong a support for the Black community, O’Rourke supported this controversial bill which affects the Black community’s protests against police brutality. And people on Twitter are taking note:
Is Beto O'Rourke yet another candidate who pandered to black voters while pushing other agendas? https://t.co/TvAmrWjb2H— BLMPeoria (@BLMPeoriaIL) January 17, 2019
Is Beto O'Rourke yet another candidate who pandered to black voters while pushing other agendas?— TL Cool Tre (@TreReal) January 17, 2019
I knew it was something! https://t.co/EcUDFtGJPT
I am greatly disappointed to learn that @BetoORourke voted for the Thin Blue Line Act (2017) which would have put cops as a protected class like women and minorities. Completely absurd!— SUJ (@SujOfficial) January 17, 2019
Beto O'Rourke peaked for 2020.
Here is the vote tally:https://t.co/cjRR41fEbc pic.twitter.com/sKXsK9lq1u
O’Rourke, a Democratic presidential contender who is expected to run in 2020, has yet to address the backlash.
H/T Mother Jones
Samira Sadeque is a New York-based journalist reporting on immigration, sexual violence, and mental health, and will sometimes write about memes and dinosaurs too. Her work also appears in Reuters, NPR, and NBC among other publications. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School, and her work has been nominated for SAJA awards. Follow: @Samideque