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Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke Delivers Remarks at Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast 2024


Selma, AL
United States

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Good morning! Today, we celebrate the courage, the tenacity and moral vision of the civil rights warriors who marched into history 59 years ago at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. My name is Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department and I am proud to be here with all of you today, with Senator Sanders, Faya Rose Touré, members of Congress, faith leaders, public officials, civil rights trailblazers, leaders and foot soldiers here in this room today.

Now as Attorney General Merrick Garland often reminds the public one of the founding principles of the Justice Department was to counter violence and terrorism from the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist organizations that were bent on using violence to deny Black people the right to vote and the ability exercise other civil rights.

Today, that mission remains central to the mission of the Justice Department. I am proud to stand here before you, representing the one federal agency with a moral value in its name.

The second book of Psalm states that “righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne.” I am here this morning to provide you an update on the work of the Justice Department to promote racial justice and equity across out country. The legacy of the foot soldiers is enshrined in the laws that undergird our work. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and more and we use these tools every day to confront discrimination and advance equal opportunity in employment, housing, education and more.

We have fought for environmental justice. We have fought to protect victims of sexual assault and harassment. We have vindicated the rights of people subjected to modern-day redlining, securing more than $122 million in relief for victims of discrimination in lending.

We are taking on the unconstitutional conditions that we see inside our jails and prisons here in Alabama, in Mississippi, in Texas, South Carolina, Georgia and more.

We have required that police carry out their jobs lawfully and without bias, prosecuting officers tied to the tragic deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Tyre Nichols in Memphis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville. And we have investigated law enforcement agencies — from Louisville to Louisiana, Mississippi to Memphis.

We have fought a pitched battle against the spreading scourge of hate crimes, charging more than 115 defendants for hate crimes in more than 100 cases since January 2021, including the defendant responsible for the heinous murder of 10 Black people at the Tops Supermarket in Buffalo, New York. But sadly the number of hate crimes continues to rise, to the highest level in decades. 60% of these crimes involve race, and Black people are the group most frequently targeted. Antisemitic, Islamophobic, anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian and anti-LGBTQI+ crimes have also soared. But our fight against hate crimes is driven by one core fundamental principle: no one should have to live in fear because of who they are, where they come from, how they worship or whom they love.

At this time and in this place, though, I would be remiss if I did not underscore our work to ensure that every eligible American has voice in our democracy. The March from Selma to Montgomery, after all, was about the right to vote, and it is the right that Dr. King called “the highest mandate of our democratic tradition.” And sadly, it is in jeopardy.

Voter suppression efforts are rampant across the country.

The Justice Department has vigorously challenged this wave of discrimination, bringing lawsuits in places like Georgia, Texas, Arizona and more. But we need your help. We need you to challenge voting discrimination and voter suppression when it rears its ugly head in your communities, and we need all of you to continue to call on Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act.

Let me be clear. This is a call to action — a call for all of us to take up the banner of our fallen heroes, to sanctify their legacy with both our words and our actions and to do all we can to uphold the right to vote.  

Know that the U.S. Department of Justice will stand by your side very step of this journey.

Thank you so much for having me with you today.  

Civil Rights
Hate Crimes
Voting and Elections
Updated March 5, 2024