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George Floyd’s brother tells Congress: ‘He didn’t deserve to die over $20'

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VIDEO |
George Floyd’s brother testifies at House hearing

Philonise Floyd pleads with Congress to implement restrictions on the use of force by police in response to the killing of his older brother, George Floyd.

In powerful, painful testimony, Philonise Floyd pleaded with Congress on Wednesday to implement sweeping restrictions on the use of force by police, such as the kind that led to the killing of his older brother, George Floyd.

“George wasn’t hurting anyone that day. He didn’t deserve to die over 20 dollars. I am asking you: Is that what a Black man’s life is worth? Twenty dollars? This is 2020. Enough is enough,“ Floyd said in opening remarks at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on a proposed police-reform bill. “The people marching in the streets are telling you enough is enough.”

George Floyd died at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer less than two weeks ago, after a shopkeeper accused Floyd of passing a bad $20 bill. The video of Floyd pleading with the officer, who pressed a knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes until Floyd stopped moving, sparked widespread outrage and mass protests across the country.

“He was mild mannered; he didn’t fight back. He listened to the officers. He called them ‘sir.’ The men who took his life, who suffocated him for eight minutes and 46 seconds, he still called them ‘sir’ as he begged for his life,” Philonise Floyd said.

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On Monday, Democrats introduced a bill that would make it easier for people to sue a police department if their civil rights are violated and for police to be prosecuted for criminal behavior.

It would set up a national network to track police misconduct to prevent officers from being rehired in a different jurisdiction, set national training standards, make lynching a federal hate crime and ban choke holds and neck holds among federal officers.

GOP members on the committee, Reps. Mike Johnson of Louisiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio, expressed sympathy for those who had died at the hands of police, including George Floyd. But Johnson said all police officers should not be judged by the actions of a “few bad apples wearing a badge.”

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Several of the witnesses brought in by Republicans to testify focused on proposals to “defund the police,” which have been embraced by some activists and progressives but rejected by most Democratic lawmakers.

Accountability is necessary, but dismantling police forces would shred “the thin wall between civilization and chaos,” said conservative radio show host Daniel Bongino, a former U.S. Secret Service agent. “Please stop this defund-the-police abomination before somebody gets hurt.”

Angela Underwood Jacobs — whose brother Dave Patrick Underwood, a federal officer with the Department of Homeland Security, was killed in Oakland last month — stressed the need for lawful, peaceful solutions. The FBI is investigating the reason for the shooting.

The killing of Floyd “was not just cruel and reprehensible, but criminal,” she said. “I wish that same justice for my brother Patrick, who served with distinction and honor as a federal officer … until he was murdered anonymously by blind violence.”

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Underwood Jacobs, a City Council member in Lancaster, implored Congress to find compromise on legislation that was the focus of Wednesday’s hearing. “If you can’t get it right, there’s no hope for the rest of us,” she said. “I hope that we’re not just people on paper.”

The sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) told reporters during a break that she was hopeful about the bill’s chances because Republicans and their witnesses largely focused their criticism on the “defund the police” idea, rather than attacking what is in the legislation.

“They’re talking about defunding the police,” she said. “The bill has nothing to do with that. So that makes me feel a little hopeful.”

Democrats and Republicans on Wednesday agreed on a few central points: that the officers should be punished for Floyd’s death, that reforms are necessary, and that most police officers perform their jobs well.

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Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said Republicans would like to “fine tune” Democrats’ legislation but added, “You will be able to count on Republican cooperation.” Gaetz agreed on the need to ban chokeholds and increase accountability.

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) said, “There are many proposals that have been raised in the House that merit support,” including making police misconduct records public, restricting no-knock warrants and ending the transfer of military-style weapons to local police. But he pushed back on the inclusion of national training standards, saying such decisions should be made at the community level.

Other Republicans disagreed with the changes to so-called qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that has made it almost impossible to sue police officers in civil court for misconduct. They said such a step would keep people from entering policing.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who is leading the group crafting the Senate Republican bill, told reporters Wednesday that “there’s some common ground between the House bill, our bill and the White House bill.”

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Scott has said his proposal, which could be released as soon as Friday, would increase police training to focus on de-escalation tactics. He indicated that several key provisions of the Democrats’ bill were unlikely to pass, including bans on chokeholds and no-knock warrants in drug-related cases, and limitations on qualified immunity.

House Republicans are expected to issue proposals of their own in the coming days. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) promised Philonise Floyd on Wednesday that his brother “will not have died in vain.”

Philonise Floyd asked committee members to make sure that his brother was “more than another face on a T-shirt, more than another name on a list that will keep growing.”

“George’s calls for help were ignored,” he said. “Please listen to the call I’m making to you now, to the calls of our family, and to the calls ringing out in the streets across the world.”


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