Eric Holder talks 14th amendment, Starbucks arrest at National Constitution Center

He's also considering a presidential bid in 2020.

Cherri Gregg
April 23, 2018 - 10:19 pm
From left: Jeffrey Rosen, Eric Holder and Sherrilyn Ifill

Cherri Gregg


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Former Attorney General Eric Holder discussed everything from political gerrymandering to criminal justice reform, as well as his take on the recent arrest of two Black men at a Starbucks in Center City, during his keynote address at the National Constitution Center Monday night.

Holder is one of the big names consulting on implicit bias training following the racially charged arrests at Starbucks.

As such, his keynote also touched on the 14th Amendment — the law that gave African-Americans full citizenship 150 years ago.

"Race is still something that matters in this country," Holder told the crowd. Questions were moderated by Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which co-sponsored the event, as well as Jeffrey Rosen, CEO of the National Constitution Center. 

"Common sense needs to get infused into how we react to situations," he said, noting that police and employees at companies like Starbucks must balance the power to take action against someone with pragmatism.

RELATED: Community Leaders Call For Equality Outside Center City Starbucks

While Holder did not discuss his possible run for president in 2020, he did take issue with President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan.

"When was America great?" he asked. "It certainly wasn't during the time of slavery. Probably not during the time of reconstruction. It wasn't when women didn't have the right to vote."

The National Constitution Center held multiple panels on Monday focusing on varying aspects of the 14th Amendment.  

It's one of the most powerful tools for civil rights lawyers to use against states and the federal government to protect the right to vote, marry and to be free of discrimination. The amendment provides all U.S.-born citizens certain "privileges and immunities," including equal protection under the laws. It also gives the federal government the right to protect citizens against the states if they infringe on certain rights. 

He continued his correlation to the Starbucks incident, which shows that enforcers must use common sense.

"It's an expression of America at its best," added Holder, "the notion that everyone should be treated equally — that the government has limits on what it can do."