In late October, the University of St. Thomas Law Journal held Protests and Reform, a day-long symposium examining how lawmakers and the legal profession have responded to demands for change in the wake of George Floyd’s death. More than a dozen speakers covered a variety of topics including the role of lawyers in systemic change, transitional justice and the legacy of slavery and racism in the United States and Black Lives Matter movement in American constitutional and legal history. The event featured speakers from law firms, universities, government and civil rights organizations. We asked a select group of presenters and attendees what they took away from the symposium.  

 

Dr. Yohuru Williams, Founding Director of the Racial Justice Initiative 

The symposium was an awesome mix of scholarship and policy discussion on how the legal community can and should respond to the continuing national conversation around dismantling systemic racism especially with regard to criminal justice.

In addition to the phenomenal keynote from Cornell William Brooks, the highlight for me was Mark Bennett’s enlightening discussion of the implications of Batson v. Kentucky. The University of St. Thomas Law Journal should be proud of putting on such a rich and thought-provoking conference. 

 

3L Rachel Hampson, law journal symposium editor

3L Rachel Hampson, law journal symposium editor 

I think the message to myself and fellow law students is that we are going to be joining an amazing community. I was struck by the honesty, authenticity and candor of the presenters. The individual lawmakers and legal professionals were inspiring, and it was clear that when individuals all work within their spheres of influence, collectively they can affect substantial reform.  

 

Rep. Rena Moran, Minnesota House of Representatives 

The legislation passed in 2020 is only a beginning to criminal justice reform. There is a lot of work left to do. I look forward to focusing on the next steps to enacting additional measures from the People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus’ police reform recommendations such as bail bond reform and restoring the right to vote. 

 

Dean Robert Vischer, School of Law 

The speakers contributed to a remarkable day and underscored the extent to which meaningful progress on racial justice requires perseverance and sustained effort.  We cannot let attention shift away from our glaring racial disparities simply because George Floyd’s killing is no longer dominating the news cycle.

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