Rep. Ayanna Pressley on new resolution to combat racism, reaction to President Trump's handling of protests

Rep. Pressley on racism and police reform
Rep. Pressley on racism and police reform 08:12

Freshman Democrat Rep. Ayanna Pressley called on Congress to "function as the conscience for our nation" and pass sweeping reforms to combat racially biased policing tactics. Amid nationwide protests and continued clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement, Pressley introduced legislation in the House of Representatives that would condemn police brutality and racial profiling. 

"Congressional intent is a powerful tool," she said on "CBS This Morning" Wednesday. "We have the most diverse and representative Congress in the history of Congress, and we should act like it." 

Protests broke out last week after the death of black Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of white police officer Derek Chauvin. Subsequent demonstrations have continued daily around the country, with protesters decrying the long history of racism in the justice system. 

Pressley said President Trump has been "either a hapless bystander or an inciter of violence" at any given moment of unrest.

She called the president "calloused, disconnected and removed" from the pain felt by Americans, particularly black Americans. 

Pressley's resolution, in partnership with Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, California Rep. Karen Bass and the Congressional Black Caucus, is aimed at "denouncing police brutality, racial profiling and excessive force." 

A similar resolution was introduced in 1999 by Rep. Danny Davis, though the bill failed to make it to the House floor. 

"I cannot begin to approximate the number of black lives that have been lynched, brutalized, murdered, surveilled, profiled from 1999 to now," Pressley said. "There is unrest everywhere, and it will persist for as long as there is unrest, and so this Congressional resolution — at this tipping point moment — is important affirmation."

She said the Congressional Black Caucus had additional pieces of legislation that they "will be rolling out" to tackle "broader reforms."

Pressley also addressed the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on African Americans.

"Bear in mind the black community has disproportionately born the brunt of COVID-19. We are managing that trauma and that loss," Pressley said. "A public health pandemic and the scourge that is police brutality layered with the trauma of housing injustice, economic injustice, education injustice and health care injustice."

She lauded protesters and community organizers as "builders, not destroyers," and said the public pressure of the demonstrations is important to enacting change.

"It holds us accountable," Pressley said. "The reason why we have often acted with conviction as lawmakers is because of the courage of everyday people. The civil rights movement we're in, it's not over."