Juvenile Law Center Statement on State Violence Against Black Lives

We have watched in horror the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless Black people, including children, before them. As police target our Black communities, we stand with the thousands of protestors demanding justice for their deaths.

A 17-year-old girl was at the scene of the murder of George Floyd, recording his death at the hands of police. For nearly nine excruciating minutes - while four officers took his life - this young woman provided the world with evidence of his killing, at the expense of her own trauma. The brutal, persistent, all-pervasive racism, anti-Blackness and white supremacy we have seen in Mr. Floyd’s murder and every day in American society is not the result of actions by just these few police officers, but of structural racism at the core of our law enforcement and justice system. It is further evidenced by our political leaders’ prioritization of property damage over Black lives.

Our legal system is laden with over-policing and mass incarceration. For 45 years, Juvenile Law Center has fought for rights, dignity, equity and opportunity for youth in the child welfare and justice systems. We stand with youth whose lives are in the hands of the state, but who are all too often forgotten. Unless we dismantle the structural racism at the core of these systems, all our work is at the edges and fails to attack the rot of racism at the core.

We stand in solidarity with protestors across the country and around the world who refuse to allow this persistent, racist violence against Black lives to continue. Among the protestors were colleagues, partners in justice, and members of our own staff. One of our attorneys was violently attacked by a police officer while she was peacefully kneeling with her hands behind her back. At close range, a Philadelphia police officer pulled down her mask to spray her directly in the face. He then threw down the young Black man behind her to aggressively spray him. Both they and the hundreds of others were peacefully protesting in solidarity to emphasize that Black Lives Matter.

Over 700 people have now been arrested in Philadelphia and we are under a daily curfew. It is time we recognize that law enforcement with increasingly militaristic equipment and strategies is lethal, particularly to Black communities, and is an affront to the humanity of us all. Over-policing and mass incarceration are the wrong answers and only further diminish our human and economic resources to address the racism at the heart of our society’s challenges. In our anger and anguish, we must continue to fight against forces of white supremacy and for racial justice and empowerment of Black communities and the youth we serve.

We demand justice for the murders of Black people at the hands of police. We also demand justice for Black communities disproportionately targeted by law enforcement and other state systems. We stand with protestors demanding the same.

To join us in this fight for racial justice, learn more about what you can do to educate yourself.  Participate in budget hearings in Philadelphia and demand funding for youth services. Fight against a $14 million increase in Philadelphia police funding amidst widespread cuts. Learn more about our work on Twitter @Juvlaw75 and the work of our colleagues at:

(Philadelphia) Youth Sentencing and Reentry Project @YSRP

(Philadelphia) Youth Art and Self-Empowerment Project @YASP2

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights @civilrightsorg

The demands of protestors in Philadelphia and links to the demands of protestors across the country can be found on the website for The Movement for Black Lives.

We will continue our fight for justice against the racism that permeates the justice and child welfare systems. Core to that work is dismantling white supremacist structures that encourage this state violence.

Black Lives Matter.

More News

Ashley Smith-Juarez, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange •