“We need to stand up and say that black lives matter,” Mitt Romney, one of Utah’s Republican senators, declared on June 7 as he marched in Washington with a crowd of thousands protesting police brutality against black people. Days earlier, in a photo with community leaders in Wilmington, Del., presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden took a knee—a symbolic gesture of support for protesters’ demand to end police abuses.
Gestures are one thing; actions are another. After the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer on May 25 spawned nationwide protests, politicians are scrambling to respond with proposals to curb the power of the police. But the means by which they would do so differ starkly.