DFL Politicians Call for Reform in Wake of Yanez Decision

Politicians at home and around the country have offered their support for the Castile family and called for peace and reform.

Philando Castile, Jeronimo, Yanez
Image Credit: Facebook

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The verdict in the Philando Castile case has left many surprised, disappointed, and angry at the criminal justice system.

Politicians and candidate hopefuls around the country have shared their sympathy with the Castile family and have called for change in the criminal justice system.

“This is an extremely painful day for our community,” DNC Deputy Chair Rep. Keith Ellison wrote in a statement. Just under a year ago, thousands of us rallied to support the Castile family in their time of hurt and crisis. Many people who knew Philando – his family, friends, students, and other loved ones – are forever marked by his death.

“Today’s verdict re-opens old wounds, on top of the scars from past injustices that make so many Black Americans feel that their lives don’t matter.”

Ellison offered his support and love to the Castile family, thanked Ramsey County Attorney John Choi for his efforts, and encouraged the community to “keep fighting in honor of Philando [Castile].”

“Many Minnesotans and Americans will be disappointed, heartbroken, and angry over today’s verdict. Every member of our community is entitled to their own opinion on the case – and the peaceful expression of those opinions is the cornerstone of our democracy,” Rep. Betty McCollum wrote in a statement. “However, there are things we can all agree on: We must work together to build a stronger, more trusting relationship between our community and our law enforcement. And we must truly confront racism and racial injustice in every facet of our society. As we have these important conversations, I am hopeful that the entire Twin Cities community will be respectful of one another.”

“Today is a challenging day for Minnesota. Philando Castile’s death is a horrible tragedy. I will do everything I can to help our state heal in the wake of today’s verdict. Together as Minnesotans, we must confront the social injustice that is part of everyday life for people of color,” Rep. Tim Walz, also a candidate for governor wrote on Facebook. “I will also continued to work with our law enforcement community – the vast majority of law enforcement officers are decent, hard-working, and brave Minnesotans who do believe in justice and fairness. Through dialogue and mutual respect, we must come together as one Minnesota to ensure justice for all.”

Sen. Al Franken said Castile did not deserve to die in a Facebook post.

“I am thankful to Ramsey County Attorney John Choi for pursuing justice for Philando and his family, and whatever one’s opinion of the outcome in this case, we must come together and take concrete action to reckon with and dismantle the systemic racial inequalities that lead to far too many of these deaths,” Franken wrote.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar wrote on Medium, “This is a very hard day for Philando Castile’s family, those beloved, and our community. I’ve met Philando’s family and know how much the students at J.J. Hill Montessori adored him and miss him. The right to free speech is critical to our democracy. In the days ahead, I hope that everyone exercises the right peacefully and that we can work together to foster trust between our law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.”  

Former presidential candidate and current Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote on Facebook, “Our criminal justice system is profoundly broken and has failed African Americans over and over again. We must demand a justice system that values black lives, not ones that takes innocent black lives. We need major reform including making certain that lethal force is the last response, not the first response.”

No Republican candidates for office, current Republican lawmakers, nor the MNGOP issued a statement on the verdict of the Castile case.

With an election looming, political science professor at Hamline University David Schultz, Republicans could harm themselves by commenting.

“I think there are several reasons for Republican silence.  First, I am not sure that Republican candidates get an political advantage from commenting on it. By that, they win no political points with their base if they criticize jury verdict while at the same time if they endorse the verdict or praise the political officer they either alienate swing voters or run the risk of endorsing the fact that they support police killing civilians, especially people of color,” Schultz told Alpha News. “Republicans have no incentive to comment and any that they do offer run the risk of labeling them racist or racially insensitive.  It is a politically no-win situation for them.”

As reported by Alpha News, Officer Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty on two counts of dangerous discharge of a weapon and one count of manslaughter. Castile was killed last year when Yanez pulled him over for a broken taillight.

Preya Samsundar

Preya Samsundar was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. She graduated from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities this Spring with a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology, with a minor in Strategic Communications. Preya has previously worked on several State Campaign Races.