Rand Paul to Urban League: In America, you can be arrested for 'waiting while black'
Rand Paul (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

In an address to the Urban League convention on Friday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said that minorities in the United States were treated unfairly by the justice system -- and could even be arrested merely for "waiting while black."

"Tragically, Congress about a couple years ago passed legislation that allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens without a trial," he said.

Paul was referring to a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which allows the U.S. military to indefinitely detain people who "substantially support" al Qaeda or the Taliban, even if they are U.S. citizens.

He said the right to a trial was important because people are falsely accused of crimes.

"Who are the people that are falsely accused? People who are minorities, but you can be a minority because of the color of your skin or the shade of your ideology. There are many ways you can be a minority," Paul continued.

"Our nation has come a long way since the civil rights movement, but we must realize that race still plays a role in the enforcement of the law. Just ask Raliek, Daequon, and Wan’Tauhjs. They were just standing on a street corner when a policeman arrived and told them to move on or be arrested. What was their crime? Someone had written and said maybe the crime was waiting while being black."

The three New York teens were waiting for a school bus last year when they were handcuffed by the officers, and charged with with disorderly conduct and obstructing the sidewalk.

"Anyone who thinks race does not still -- even if inadvertently -- skew the application of criminal justice is just not paying close attention," Paul remarked.

The Republican senator has faced criticism for comments he made in 2010 about the Civil Rights Act. Paul suggested the government shouldn't prohibit private businesses from discriminating on the basis of race.

“Not only do I support the Civil Rights Act and the Voting rights Act, I am a Republican who wants to restore a federal role for the government in the Voting Rights Act,” he told the Urban League.

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[Image via Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons license]