Clyburn, who grew up in the Jim Crow South and has been a civil rights advocate since he was 12 years old, urged activists calling to overhaul policing and end systemic racism find a clearer and more united message.
“When you allow people to use incendiary terms, we create a climate within which we can’t get much done,” Clyburn told Power Up in an interview on Wednesday.
- ‘Defund the police’ is unnecessarily confusing, Clyburn said: “I think all of us know that sound bites tend to get interpreted in all kinds of ways and if you've got to explain the sound bite, you're losing the whole issue.”
- The movement to slash funding for police departments or disband them entirely — and redirect money to social programs — has been gaining traction among liberal activists and academics who believe that police reform alone is not enough. But it's raised a lot of questions about what it would actually mean in practice.
- “For me, the word defund means what Merriam-Webster says that it means,” Clyburn said. “So if you’re talking about reallocating resources, say that. If you mean reimagining policing, say that. If you’re going to reform policing, say that. Don’t tell me you’re going to use a term that you know is charged — and tell me that it doesn’t mean what it says.”
Clyburn, who has called the mass demonstrations “a defining moment in this country's history,” urged activists and protesters across the country to avoid violence and keep their eyes on the end goal of change. He argued that they owe it to Floyd's family.
- “Nobody wants George Floyd to be remembered by a burning building — we want to remember him by reforming policing,” Clyburn added.
- Floyd's brother is calling on Congress to make change, too: “I couldn’t take care of George that day he was killed, but maybe by speaking with you today, I can make sure that his death would not be in vain. To make sure that he is more than another face on a T-shirt. More than another name on a list that won’t stop growing,” Philonise Floyd told the House Judiciary Committee yesterday. “It is on you to make sure his death wasn’t in vain.”
Clyburn, the son of a fundamentalist minister, organized the first sit-in protests in his state as a student at South Carolina State College in Orangeburg and even famously met his wife Emily in jail after being arrested following one in 1960.
Clyburn says some of the best advice he received during the civil rights movement came from his wife, who suggested he go beyond his nonviolent ideas for protest and make real policy changes on his college campus.
- “She said something to me about our efforts: What we really needed to be focused on was beyond the lunch counter,” Clyburn said of their conversation after a lunch counter sit-in. “She was talking about the institution of racism and what it all meant.” (Emily passed away last year after 58 years of marriage.)
Clyburn also offered advice for his white colleagues in Congress looking to be better allies to black people and communities of color: “Admit the truth.”
“There’s nobody around who does not know that our judicial system, our law enforcement system, our police practices have all been built on two pillars that hold up two sets of experiences,” he said. There's “the white experience of people who came to this country on own free will, who came looking for freedom and justice, running away from tyranny. And the other pillar, holding up black experiences of people who came to this country against their will — chain and shackles and enslaved. The whole law enforcement and policing system has been established to preserve that phenomenon. We all know that. And we’re getting a few white people just now beginning to admit that.”
Clyburn said he wishes his friend Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights icon who is currently battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer, was able to join him at the Capitol during this moment.
- “One of the things I miss right now is not being able to sit down with [Lewis] on the floor as we did so often over the last 28 years,” Clyburn told us. “We talk about how sitting-in, back in the 60s, caused all of this to occur and I can see us talking now.” (In 2016, Lewis led a sit-in by House Democrats in an effort to force a vote on gun control measures that lasted 15 hours.)
But Clyburn said he respectfully disagreed with Lewis's assessment that Trump is the worst president for civil rights since the Voting Rights act of 1965.
- “I think Trump is the worst president since Woodrow Wilson. He is running the contest to be the worst since Andrew Johnson,” Clyburn said. “Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Abraham Lincoln in the presidency, I think may have been the worst and then I would put Wilson in second place. And then Trump may be eclipsing Woodrow Wilson and heading toward Andrew Johnson, the worst president in the history of the country as far as I’m concerned.”
At The White House
TRUMP SAYS BASES WON'T BE RENAMED: “Trump rejected the idea of renaming military bases whose names honor Confederate military figures who fought on behalf of preserving the institution of slavery, sounding another divisive note amid a convulsive and painful national reckoning over police mistreatment of African Americans,” Anne Gearan, Colby Itkowitz and Missy Ryan report.
- Military officials previously said they were open to changing the names: “On Monday, officials said that Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy were ‘open to a bipartisan discussion on the topic,’” our colleagues write.
The White House threatened to veto any legislation that ties its hands on the issue: The Senate Armed Services Committee voted to require the Pentagon to change the names of the bases within three years as part of an amendment to the sweeping legislation that funds the military, the Hill's Niels Lesniewski reports.
- “We’ve got to honor what has happened there, not rename it. So that is an absolute nonstarter for the president," White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters.
Why the bases have these names in the first place: The 10 Army bases, all in former Confederate states, “were named with input from locals in the Jim Crow era. The Army courted their buy-in because it needed large swaths of land to build sprawling bases in the early 20th century up through World War II,” Alex Horton reports.
- In addition to losing the war, some of them were pretty bad generals: “Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the headquarters of the Special Forces, bears the name of Gen. Braxton Bragg, a commander often assailed as one of the most bumbling commanders in the war. Bragg was relieved of command after losing the battle for Chattanooga in 1863, then served as a military adviser to Confederate President Jefferson Davis.”
Trump held a listening session with black leaders:
Trump also told reporters that his first post-covid campaign rally would be in Tulsa next Friday, June 19. The event will fall on Juneteenth, a holiday that marks the day the last slaves were freed in America. In 1921, Tulsa was the site of a race massacre after a white mob descended on an affluent black neighborhood, as many as 300 people died.
On The Hill
FLOYD'S BROTHER DELIVERS EMOTIONAL TESTIMONY: Philonise Floyd, one of George Floyd's brothers, “pleaded for Congress to act to stop police violence against minorities, formally launching the congressional effort to revamp laws after his brother’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked protests across the country,” Paul Kane reports.
- Republicans spoke little about the sweeping Democratic proposal unveiled on Monday: “To focus their attention on the police defunding issue, House Republicans included Daniel Bongino in their witness lineup. He is a conservative radio show host and a contributor to Fox News whose confrontational style sometimes wins him kudos from Trump. He used his testimony to focus entirely on the police defunding movement that he argued would ‘target these heroes’ in local departments.”
PELOSI CALLS FOR CONFEDERATE STATUES TO BE REMOVED FROM THE CAPITOL: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi renewed a years-long quest to remove the remaining 11 Confederate statues from the Capitol, Colby Itkowitz reports.
- But a key Republican said the issue is out of his control: Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library, said the panel does not have the legal power to remove them after receiving a letter from Pelosi seeking his help. “As Speaker Pelosi is undoubtedly aware, the law does not permit the Architect of the Capitol or the Joint Committee of Congress on the Library to remove a statue from the Capitol once it has been received,” Blunt said in a statement, the Hill reports. Blunt said he was “encourag[ed]” some states are already in the process of replacing Confederate statues.
GOP ALMOST SET TO MOVE CONVENTION TO JACKSONVILLE: “While the move is still being finalized, the decision to uproot major chunks of the convention from its planned home in Charlotte is another example of Trump disruption, in this case as he casts aside public safety advice and the spirit of a signed contract between the RNC and Charlotte to host the convention there,” Annie Linskey, Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey report.
Behind the move: “Local officials are more willing to allow him to give a speech in a packed indoor arena amid a pandemic,” our colleagues write. “Guidelines from Trump’s own administration, along with advice from medical experts, make it clear that large-scale events, particularly ones held indoors, can facilitate the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.”
- North Carolina won't be left entirely empty-handed: “The RNC still plans to hold some smaller meetings in Charlotte, and Trump probably would visit the city at some point between Aug. 24-27 when the convention is scheduled … Republican officials are hoping that will shield them from any liability for moving an event that they are contractually obligated to hold there.”
Democrats are still planning to meet in Milwaukee: But Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez said “he doesn't know how many delegates will be on hand for his party's national convention in Milwaukee,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Bill Glauber reports.
- Perez needled the GOP for potentially ignoring health standards: “Unlike Donald Trump, we are actually going to listen to the public health experts as we come to Milwaukee because we believe it's really important to have a safe, exciting, inspiring convention in Milwaukee and I'm confident we can do that,” he told Wisconsin reporters on a conference call, the Journal Sentinel reports.
Outside The Beltway
NASCAR BANS CONFEDERATE FLAGS: “NASCAR, the uniquely American form of stock-car racing that has celebrated its Southern roots since its formation 72 years ago, announced it is banning displays of the Confederate flag at all of its events and properties,” Liz Clarke and Des Bieler reports.
- More details: “The move came two days after Bubba Wallace, the lone African American driver in the sport’s elite Cup Series, called for NASCAR to ban displays of the flag during a televised interview with CNN’s Don Lemon.”
LEBRON HELPS FORM VOTING RIGHTS GROUP: “The N.B.A. superstar LeBron James and a group of other prominent black athletes and entertainers are starting a new group aimed at protecting African-Americans’ voting rights, seizing on the widespread fury against racial injustice that has fueled worldwide protests to amplify their voices in this fall’s presidential election,” the New York Times's Jonathan Martin reports.
- The King speaks: "Because of everything that’s going on, people are finally starting to listen to us — we feel like we’re finally getting a foot in the door,” James told the Times. “How long is up to us. We don’t know. But we feel like we’re getting some ears and some attention, and this is the time for us to finally make a difference.”
- “The organization, called More Than a Vote, will partly be aimed at inspiring African-Americans to register and to cast a ballot in November,” per the Times. “But as the name of the group suggests, Mr. James and other current and former basketball stars — including Trae Young, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Jalen Rose — will go well beyond traditional celebrity get-out-the-vote efforts. Mr. James, 35, said he would use his high-profile platform on social media to combat voter suppression and would be vocal about drawing attention to any attempts to restrict the franchise of racial minorities.”
In the Media
WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Fed chair says millions of jobs may never come back: “Federal Reserve leaders predict a slow recovery for the U.S. economy, with unemployment falling to 9.3 percent by the end of this year and to 6.5 percent by the end of 2021, after tens of millions of Americans lost their jobs in the stunning recession caused by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus,” Heather Long reports.
Ex-Judge slams DOJ's push to remove Michael Flynn sentence: “Michael Flynn committed perjury, and his guilty plea of lying to the FBI should not be dismissed, a court-appointed adviser argued to a federal judge, calling the Justice Department’s attempt to undo the conviction corrupt, politically motivated and ‘a gross abuse of prosecutorial power,’” Spencer S. Hsu and Ann E. Marimow report.
- Jaw-dropping quote: “The Government has engaged in highly irregular conduct to benefit a political ally of the President,” Former New York federal judge John Gleeson wrote in an 82-page brief to U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan.
Lafayette Square Park reopens: “Lafayette Square near the White House reopened early Thursday after crews opened two gates along H Street NW around 11:58 p.m. Wednesday,” Clarence Williams and Hannah Natanson report.
A GALLERY OF PAIN AND PROTEST: “In the aftermath of [Floyd’s] death, protesters transformed hundreds of feet of chain-link fencing erected to protect the White House into a massive, makeshift art project that demands equal protection for all Americans,” Bonnie Berkowitz, Joe Fox, Kevin Uhrmacher, Gabriel Florit and Monica Ulmanu report in an interactive feature where you can see the fence yourself.