Keith Ellison at Netroots Nation 2020
Keith Ellison at Netroots Nation 2020

Wel­come to our spe­cial cov­er­age of Net­roots Nation 2020, tak­ing place exclu­sive­ly online for the first time ever due to the nov­el coro­n­avirus pandemic.

It has been long a tra­di­tion at Net­roots — America’s largest annu­al gath­er­ing of pro­gres­sives — to give atten­dees a choice of three fea­tured pan­els dur­ing at least one or two of the times­lots dur­ing the three-day conference.

Today’s menu of fea­tured pan­els con­sist­ed of three com­pelling ses­sions about press­ing top­ics: legal ini­tia­tives to pro­tect vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties from the Trump regime in the courts, tack­ling the cli­mate cri­sis, and defend­ing vot­ing rights.

This post will sum­ma­rize the legal pan­el, which was mod­er­at­ed by Farah Melen­dez, the polit­i­cal direc­tor of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Attor­neys Gen­er­al Association.

The ses­sion is avail­able to watch on demand if you’re inter­est­ed.

Join­ing Melen­dez were Phil Weis­er, the Attor­ney Gen­er­al of Col­orado, Xavier Becer­ra, the Attor­ney Gen­er­al of Cal­i­for­nia, Kei­th Elli­son, the Attor­ney Gen­er­al of Min­neso­ta, and Mau­ra Healey, the Attor­ney Gen­er­al of Massachusetts.

The pan­el dis­cus­sion began with intro­duc­tions and a con­ver­sa­tion about the impor­tan­ta­nce of the work of Demo­c­ra­t­ic attor­neys gen­er­al are in our cur­rent times. Each AG empha­sized that they are the people’s lawyers and a way to affect change at the grass­roots lev­el involves con­tact­ing your state Attor­ney General.

Demo­c­ra­t­ic AGs are on the front lines pro­tect­ing peo­ple from the heinous acts being per­pe­trat­ed by the Trump regime. Mass­a­chu­setts’ Mau­ra Healey stat­ed that Demo­c­ra­t­ic AGs have won over nine­ty per­cent of their cas­es against Trump.

Police and crim­i­nal jus­tice reform was one of the main top­ics cov­ered by the pan­el. The AGs spoke about their focus on these issues before the hor­rif­ic mur­der of George Floyd in Min­neapo­lis, Min­neso­ta, a case Ellison’s office is prosecuting.

Col­orado’s Weis­er explained that his office has a six-prong focus:

  1. Hav­ing a diverse and inclu­sive team at the AG’s office
  2. Crim­i­nal jus­tice reform – reduc­tion of the lev­el of incarceration
  3. Focus­ing on reduc­ing reentry
  4. End­ing the school to prison pipeline
  5. End­ing cash bail
  6. Police account­abil­i­ty and reform

Weis­er observed that even forty-eight to sev­en­ty-two hours in jail increas­es someone’s chance of com­mit­ting a crime lat­er on as it is a desta­bi­liz­ing event. Only those that are a risk should be kept in jail.

He point­ed to the Cal­i­for­nia mod­el of elim­i­nat­ing cash bail and said the ques­tion should always be, “Is it about pub­lic safety?”

Elli­son (who, as men­tioned, is head­ing up the George Floyd case), stat­ed that his office has been work­ing on police account­abil­i­ty since 2019. He added that those that vio­late the law should be pros­e­cut­ed no mat­ter who they are.

Cal­i­for­ni­a’s Becer­ra talked about trans­paren­cy in polic­ing and stat­ed that we can’t have reform with­out going down to the roots and address­ing root causes.

Becer­ra ref­er­enced pat­tern and prac­tice inves­ti­ga­tions he has done in Cal­i­for­nia and said every police depart­ment must under­take new reforms.

Mass­a­chu­setts’ Healey tout­ed her state’s ban on choke­holds and said that it is impor­tant that resources be used prop­er­ly. She talked about train­ing offi­cers on sub­stance use dis­or­der and men­tal illness.

The AGs also talked about racial inequal­i­ty in health­care, hous­ing and the dig­i­tal divide. Healy stat­ed that sys­tem­at­ic racism has bled across every sec­tor and because of that, every­thing needs to be looked at through an equi­ty lens.

The AGs reserved some time to dis­cuss the pan­dem­ic. Each spoke about their offices being involved in price goug­ing cas­es and Weis­er made an anal­o­gy to Har­ry Pot­ter char­ac­ter Mad Eye Moody by stat­ing that con­stant vig­i­lance is nec­es­sary. Elli­son talked about AGs’ respon­si­bil­i­ty to pro­tect essen­tial work­ers. He declared that essen­tial work­ers are not dis­pos­able workers.

Before con­clud­ing their ses­sion, all of the AGs reit­er­at­ed that attor­neys gen­er­al need to be engaged with the pub­lic and peo­ple should be con­tact­ing their AGs regard­ing issues that are impor­tant to them. Be sure to get in touch with your state AG if you’ve been wronged by a com­pa­ny you’ve done busi­ness with.

How to contact your state’s Attorney General

Every North­west AG has a web form you can use to lodge an inquiry.

Our cov­er­age of Net­roots Nation 2020 will con­tin­ue through this Sat­ur­day; we invite you to check back reg­u­lar­ly for peri­od­ic updates from the conference.

Adjacent posts