Van Jones Calls for Right and Left to "Come Together" and Act Amid Protests

Van Jones - EMA IMPACT Summit- Getty-H 2018
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In an appearance on 'Conan,' the CNN commentator discussed his sadness following the latest death of an unarmed black man but also his "hope" for a bipartisan bill tackling police brutality.

Van Jones discussed feeling a range of emotions from "despair" to "hope" in the wake of George Floyd's death while appearing on Conan on Monday night.

From the perspective of a black parent, the CNN commentator said, the death of yet another unarmed black man while being detained by police erased all his lingering notions that he could teach his children to act a certain way to survive encounters with the police. "We had this one little hope, this tiny thread, that we could tell our children that there was something they could do to keep them safe from even the worst officers," like if they didn't "talk back," run or kept their hands on the steering wheel, he said. "In this situation, there's nothing that we could have told our kids."

Jones added, as others have, that Floyd's death revived historical trauma within the black community dating back to public lynchings of black Americans. "Lynchings were designed to humiliate and intimidate the whole community," he said. "When it's law enforcement, you really feel helpless. That's why, I think, you see this real despair in the black community."

But Jones also raised a note of hope. Suspicions that white Americans are indifferent to the lives of black Americans "may not be as well founded as we think," he said, based on the mass of white Americans who "are also shocked and horrified" by Floyd's death and asking what they can do as a result. While he believes that the U.S. will never fully eradicate police brutality, "you can create an environment where, when it happens, the response is effective enough that other people don't want to go down the same bad road."

Jones, an attorney who is not currently practicing, added that in order to serve justice in the Floyd case, all cops involved in Floyd's death "need to be charged" as accessories to murder. He added that a bipartisan bill could tackle some issues surrounding police brutality, such as individual policemen's immunity from personal lawsuits. Trusting someone just because of the uniform they wear, Jones added, is "gang mentality." He said that police have a "monopoly on violence" but that checks and balances should be applied to that monopoly: "Right and left should disagree with that reality. Right and left should come together and say, 'let's fix that.'"

What could the president do now that could be meaningful, O'Brien asked? "Ironically, some of the things that Trump is actually doing," Jones responded, like deploying the Department of Justice and FBI to investigate Floyd's death, receive a briefing in the Oval Office, and speaking out publicly against the behavior of the policemen involved in Floyd's death. "The situation that we're in, some things that he should stop doing that cause problems — the tweeting and this sort of stuff," Jones said.

Beyond what Trump has already done, Jones added, "We need to come together" and suggested Republican and Democratic leaders and other outside figures and organizations that don't often agree convene to try to talk through the moment. "If we don't come together, we're going to end up where we're headed, and where we're headed is not good." 

Watch his full appearance below.