“Yoooo, have you heard of this dude named Bill Brennan?!” My friend intentionally does not use exclamation points as an act of resistance against manufactured cyber emotion; so when I received that excited message last week, I quickly went through my mental Rolodex because it felt as if I should have heard of Bill Brennan before, but I drew a blank.
You, dear reader, probably did, too, but I’m going to rectify that right now.
Bill Brennan, a Democrat, wants to be the governor of New Jersey. To that end, the veteran activist and former firefighter has positioned himself as a permanent thorn in Gov. Chris Christie’s side, calling him out repeatedly for his role in 2013’s politically motivated “bridge-gate,” even going so far as to file a complaint against Christie in municipal court for official misconduct.
More on Brennan from his campaign website:
Bill Brennan has the education, expertise and integrity we need to put our government back in the hands of the people. Bill has been fighting against injustice for the last 30 years. He is a retired firefighter who holds three distinct educational degrees, a law degree, a social science degree and a fire science degree.
Bill Brennan brings intensity, integrity and gravity to our cause. At the moment he is the only chance we have at prosecuting Christie for the crime we all know he committed.
This is all very interesting for those who pay attention to state politics, but it was Brennan’s performance at a recent social-justice forum that really turned heads.
The forum, billed as “A Conversation on Social Justice With New Jersey’s Gubernatorial Candidates,” was organized by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and the NAACP New Jersey State Conference.
It was there on May 1 that Brennan said that the United States was built on the genocide of indigenous people and the enslavement of Africans. He went on to say that mass incarceration is the new Jim Crow and an extension of slavery.
Then Brennan dropped the hammer. If elected governor of New Jersey, Brennan said, he would expect the full cooperation of the state Legislature in clamping down on judicial violence against marginalized and oppressed people in this nation, specifically black Americans.
Otherwise, Brennan continued, if elected, he would use his executive power to
“open every cell in Attica, send ’em to Africa” pardon every single nonviolent alleged offender and restore their right to vote.
Repeat: Brennan said he’d free them all.
I’ve transcribed Brennan’s full quote below:
There are certain crimes that if you commit them, you should never be able to participate in the electoral process again. Those crimes include official misconduct, extortion, bribery, closing bridges. And with the exception of crimes touching upon public employment, if you have served your time, then you should be allowed to participate.
We have a Jim Crow system that carries forward. We can connect today’s incarceration nation directly back to slavery; it is exactly the reason they’re doing it. We had lease labor after Reconstruction, and what was that? Put black people in jail, make them work, lease them out to their former owners. And what are we doing today? We have the Correction Corporation of America making money on our misery. And this has got to stop. So, in no uncertain terms, am I going to continue Jim Crow. I’m going to come up here; I’m going to go there and I’m going to go everywhere, and I’m going to tell the truth about what our nation is doing to its own people.
Our nation was built upon two things: the genocide of Native Americans and the enslavement of African Americans. And, today, in the United States of America, right now, Native Americans are standing their ground at Standing Rock against the government of the United States and African Americans are still locked up in prisons and working for corporations as if slavery never ended. And that, my friends, is how we’re going to stop it. The question was, ‘What am I going to do about it?’ If I cannot get the Legislature to bend to the will of my needs as a governor who wants to free the people of this state, then I will use the power of my office to pardon every single nonviolent [alleged offender] and they will vote.
Now, because we live in a white supremacist capitalist society that thrives on the subjugation of black, brown, indigenous and poor people, Brennan is unlikely to win the Democratic gubernatorial nomination on June 6.
Also, the Democratic Party as a whole is known for veering right to secure those distraught white working-class voters who don’t have clear access to white capital and the wealthy white voters who haven’t been weaned from their privilege, so there is no telling what shifts Brennan would make in a general election to secure a win.
Still, Brennan’s track record on issues and his policy proposals are extremely impressive. And because of the money in politics that props up politicians who don’t deserve it, most people won’t hear about him.
So if you live in New Jersey and you’re sick of corrupt elected officials
all in the videos, all on the record, dancing with fat pockets and thin ethics, then check out the clip of Brennan making it plain below and tell us what you think:
Watch “A Conversation on Social Justice With New Jersey’s Gubernatorial Candidates” in its entirety below: