“This Is An Hour of Great Pain and Unrest in Our Country”

‘These demonstrations began with the notion that basic physical safety and legal protections must be non-negotiable for every single American, bar none. That American liberty and the rule of law must be universal truths for all, not special privileges for some. That point is absolutely right. That is a righteous and important mission. And it is exactly why these senseless and destructive riots need to end. Not next week. Not tomorrow night. Right now.’

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding ongoing protests and riots throughout the nation:

 

“This is an hour of great pain and unrest in our country.

 

“Americans from coast to coast have been grieved and horrified by the killings of African-American citizens: Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, and George Floyd in Minneapolis.

 

“In each disturbing situation, investigations and reviews are ongoing. In Kentucky, I am glad that local authorities are investigating, I am glad the FBI is involved, and I am glad our Attorney General has committed to taking any necessary action.

 

“We need the truth, and we need swift justice under law.

 

“But here is something that requires no investigation: In no world whatsoever should arresting a man for an alleged minor infraction involve a police officer putting his knee on the man’s neck for nine minutes while he cries out ‘I can’t breathe’ and then goes silent.

 

“To me, to a great many of my fellow Kentuckians, and to millions of outraged Americans, these disturbing events do not look like three isolated incidents. They look more like the latest chapters in our national struggle to make equal justice and equal protection of the law into facts of life for all Americans, rather than contingencies that sometimes depend on the color of one’s skin.

 

“Obviously this struggle remains incomplete.

 

“I have spent decades in the Senate not only as an advocate for civil rights, but as a First Amendment purist. So I completely support and fully defend citizens’ constitutional rights to speak their minds and engage in peaceful protest.

 

“Our nation cannot deafen itself to the anger, pain, or frustration of black Americans. Our nation needs to hear this.

 

“Yet over the last several days, citizens have watched with horror as cities across America have convulsed with looting, riots, and destruction. On a nightly basis initially peaceful demonstrators have been hijacked. Americans have watched protests dedicated to ending unjust violence mutate into riots that inflict unjust violence themselves.

 

“We have seen small businesses destroyed and public property defaced. We have seen the men and women of law enforcement -- the vast majority of whom are not bad actors, but brave public servants -- threatened and assaulted on our own streets.

 

“Free speech and peaceful protest are central American liberties. Looting, rioting, assault, and arson are violent crimes that have no place whatsoever in our society.

 

“It is not a display of courageous citizenship to smash and destroy small businesses that had just barely hung on through this pandemic.

 

“It is not an act of principled protest to grab expensive merchandise or set fire to a church.

 

“It does not advance freedom or justice to vandalize the World War II Memorial that stands for those who bled and died for exactly those values.

 

“You do not advance peace by committing assault. You do not advance justice by inflicting injustice upon your neighbors. You do not promote the rule of law through anarchy.

 

“There is no constitutional right to commit violent crime or to terrorize communities. Period.

 

“This cannot continue. It has already gone on for entirely too long. I hope state and local authorities will work quickly to crack down on outside agitators and domestic terrorists and restore some order to our cities. And if state and local leaders cannot or will not secure the peace and protect citizens and their property, I hope the federal government is ready to stand in the breach.

 

“In Kentucky, we are already seeing violence and tragedy compound on themselves. Several days ago, seven people were shot in Louisville. None, according to the mayor, by law enforcement. Last night, one individual was shot and killed by authorities after the police were fired upon from within a crowd. We are learning about the incident as fast as we can. I was just briefed by Governor Beshear today and I support a full, thorough, and immediate investigation.

 

“This has to end.

 

“These demonstrations began with the notion that basic physical safety and legal protections must be non-negotiable for every single American, bar none. That American liberty and the rule of law must be universal truths for all, not special privileges for some.

 

“That point is absolutely right. That is a righteous and important mission.

 

“And it is exactly why these senseless and destructive riots need to end. Not next week. Not tomorrow night. Right now.

 

“We have real work to do to build constructive paths forward between law enforcement and affected communities. More violence and destruction is not just unfair to many innocent people; it also just makes this important work harder."