Congressman Cohen Introduces Civil Rights Legacy Protection Act

February 18, 2021
Press Release
Establishes penalties for vandalizing Civil Rights monuments

MEMPHIS – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today introduced the Civil Rights Legacy Protection Act to regulate and reinforce protections for civil rights memorials and monuments across the United States by establishing federal penalties against vandalism of these sites, similar to the existing safeguards in place for the vandalism of veterans’ memorials. It would also direct the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights to create a list of monuments and memorials that should be protected.

There is currently no movement to pass federal protections for civil rights memorials and monuments. According to advocates for these sites, their chief course of action has been to rely on local and state vandalism and hate crime laws to prosecute suspects.

Congressman Cohen, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, made the following statement:   

“It is our responsibility to commemorate and honor the history of the Civil Rights Movement and those who fought for justice and equal rights. When someone vandalizes or destroys a civil rights monument, they are attacking the legacy of the movement, the progress we have made as a nation, and our shared values of equal justice, pluralism and respect for historic sacrifices. This bill will ensure, for the first time, that the perpetrators of these hateful acts are brought to meaningful justice while discouraging senseless vandalism of the nation’s birthright.”  

The Civil Rights Legacy Protection Act is supported by the Emmett Till Memorial Commission and the NAACP, among other groups. Representatives Sanford Bishop, Andre Carson, Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Barbara Lee also joined Congressman Cohen in introducing the bill today.