Senate hopeful Beto O'Rourke on Friday questioned why a black Dallas resident was shot by a police officer while in his apartment.
“How can it be, in this day and age, in this very year, in this community, that a young man, African-American, in his own apartment, is shot and killed by a police officer,” O'Rourke told an overflow crowd at the Good Street Baptist Church in Dallas. “And when we all want justice and the facts and the information to make an informed decision, what's released to the public? That he had a small amount of marijuana in his kitchen.”
O'Rourke, who received a standing ovation for his remarks, said the focus should not be on whether Botham Jean had marijuana in his apartment when he was fatally shot by Dallas police Officer Amber Guyger, but on ending unarmed black residents being shot by white police officers.
“That is not justice. That is not us. That can and must change,” O'Rourke said of such shootings.
O'Rourke, the El Paso congressman and Democratic nominee for Senate, was in Dallas trying to make greater inroads with black voters.
His rally at Good Street attracted more than 2,000 people, including Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and state Sen. Royce West.
O'Rourke has inspired legions of followers and has become a national celebrity.
But earlier this year, as Betomania raged with white Texans, black and Hispanic residents barely knew his name.
After months of groundwork, O'Rourke appears to be gaining traction with black voters in his Senate race against incumbent Republican Ted Cruz, even though African-Americans are the most reliable base of the Democratic Party.
“We're just trying to show up everywhere and make sure no Texan is taken for granted,” O'Rourke said before his speech.
Good Street Baptist Church, a historic venue that played a critical role in Dallas' civil rights movement, is one of several black North Texas churches that O'Rourke has visited in the past month. That outreach has been bolstered by a campaign office strategically placed in southern Dallas, so O'Rourke can tap into the urban core and the high voting areas in the southern suburbs.
Courting the black vote is of particular urgency for O'Rourke. If he wants to beat Cruz in November, he'll need an increased turnout from urban voters, including those in the Democratic Party stronghold of Dallas County.
“In order to win we have to have a bigger turnout in the midterms than we normally have,” said West, D-Dallas and a member of the church. “It's very important that he continue his outreach to the African-American community.”
In a normal midterm election the Democratic turnout in Dallas County is around 250,000 voters. West hopes Democrats can pump that number up to 325,000 voters or more.
Democrat Beto O'Rourke thinks Amber Guyger, the Dallas officer who says she mistakenly walked into the wrong apartment and shot Botham Jean, should be fired.
O'Rourke spoke to a packed rally Friday night in East Oak Cliff. People ended up overflowing outside after they ran out of room inside. He covered a lot of topics., touching on race and social disparities.
Perhaps one of the louder moments of applause came when O'Rourke addressed the fatal shooting of Botham Jean by the hands of Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger.
In his remarks, O’Rourke questioned why in 2018 a young black man could be killed by an officer in his own apartment. He also questioned why when everyone is seeking facts, the warrant was released which detailed that marijuana was found in that apartment. He said that unfairly gave the implication this was somehow justified.
“I think we are all counting on the district attorney, on those in positions of trust and power right now to do the right thing. But we're also counting on the community, many of whom are in downtown right now protesting, ensuring — not waiting for it — ensuring that will happen,” the congressman said. “There has to be a full accounting for how young black men continue to be killed in this country without accountability, without justice, without these full investigations, without respecting their civil rights. This cannot continue.”
Beto’s record on ending the racist war on drugs is true blue. It’s what helped propel to a win in Congress. We don’t see many politicians willing to speak out on these police murders, especially when it comes to unarmed African Americans. Beto knows that black voters are a key demographic to beating Cruz but what he’s saying is much more than rhetoric. It’s the truth. Beto has also been making criminal justice reform a key issue and addressing the institutional racism that comes with it:
As he makes his way across the state, Beto O'Rourke wants to know: How much does it cost to spend a night in jail? In small towns and big cities, he poses the question, grappling with the price tag of mass incarceration and fine-tuning his hopes for criminal justice reform.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate candidate hoping to unseat incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, brought that question to the Harris County jail. There, he learned from Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, it costs $87 a day to incarcerate an inmate – or sometimes more than four times that for prisoners requiring pricey psychiatric medication.
It's facts like that, picked up in his countless stops in the state's 254 counties, that drive the energetic congressman from El Paso as he shapes his focus on bail reform, marijuana decriminalization, better mental health care and ending private prisons.
“Things have actually been getting worse over time, that prison population has been getting bigger it has been getting more black,” he said at a roundtable after his jailhouse visit. “It is consigning more generations to engagement with the criminal justice system.”
On his whirlwind pass through the Bayou City, the 45-year-old spent more time listening to stakeholders and speaking in generalities than he did delving into the specifics of criminal justice policy proposals. But, on the heels of two jail suicides in less than a month, his interest in the intersection of mental health and criminal justice may have seemed particularly timely in Harris County.
“One-quarter of the inmates in this county jail system are prescribed at least one psychotropic medication,” he said while driving between Houston stops.
Not only is this related to criminal justice, this is related to healthcare in a state that is last in the country in connecting people with the doctor, the prescription, the therapy, the surgery they need to survive.”
The solutions, he said, are better access to outpatient care, expanding Medicaid, and introducing Medicare on the exchange in the hope of driving down premiums.
And of course, Beto went viral when speaking in support of the NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthem:
Beto understands that as a Senator, he must represent all of Texas whereas Cruz only represents himself. I’ll have more on this race soon but I wanted to pass this along. Click here to donate and get involved with Beto’s campaign.