George Floyd’s Brother Testifies as US Lawmakers Ponder Police Reforms
Members of the U.S. Congress are examining national police reform proposals, while local and state officials announce more steps to change funding and authorizations for the use of force in their police departments.
The House Judiciary Committee is set to hear Wednesday from Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd, the African American man whose death in police custody after an officer held a knee to his neck for almost nine minutes sparked nationwide protests urging reforms.
Other witnesses include Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo and Vanita Gupta, former head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and current president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Gupta wrote on Twitter that she would testify “on the need for transformative policing policies that promote accountability, reimagine public safety, and respect the dignity of all people.”
House Democrats have proposed a package of reforms that includes bans on racial profiling and chokeholds, making it easier to sue officers in civil court and establishing a national database tracking officer misconduct. A vote is planned this month.
Scott to lead Republican effort
Republican leaders in the Senate have tasked Senator Tim Scott with leading the creation of their own package of proposals, an effort White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters Tuesday he hopes will come “sooner than later.”
Scott said Tuesday he held a productive discussion with colleagues on the plan and they would be releasing a draft “in the near future.”
“I am hopeful that this legislation will bring much-needed solutions,” Scott said.
Senator Lindsey Graham, who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, has set a hearing on police use of force for next week.
With the two parties each controlling one of the chambers, and President Donald Trump repeatedly stressing the need for “law and order” amid the protests, it is unlikely the sides will agree on all of their proposals, but there is some common ground, including the misconduct database.
Local bans on chokeholds have been among the steps already taken by city and state leaders in places such as California, Denver, and in Minneapolis, the city where Floyd died. The latest such move came from the police department in Phoenix, Arizona, which announced the immediate ban of the technique Tuesday.
In Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler said his package of reforms includes halting the use of patrol officers on public transit and moving $7 million from the city’s police budget to programs for communities of color. Other cities have pledged similar funding shifts, including New York and Los Angeles, heeding what has become one of the major initiatives promoted by protesters.
New York state lawmakers also voted Tuesday to repeal a decades-old law that made the disciplinary records and misconduct complaints against officers secret. Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he will sign it.
George Floyd funeral
Floyd was entombed Tuesday in Pearland, Texas after a Houston funeral attended by hundreds of family members, friends, and prominent figures.
Civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton gave the eulogy, saying Floyd touched people all over the country, and in other parts of the world who have also joined in the protest, “marching with your name.”
“People are walking out in the streets, not even following social distance because you've touched the world. And as we lay you to rest today, the movement won't rest until we get justice. Until we have one standard of justice. Your family is gonna miss you, George. But your nation is going to always remember your name because your neck was one that represented all of us. And how you suffered represented our stuff,” Sharpton said.
Among those in attendance were the parents of Eric Garner, Botham Jean and Michael Brown, three victims of earlier police violence whose deaths brought calls for reforms.
“Until we know the price for black life is the same as the price for white life, we're going to keep coming back to these situations over and over again," Sharpton told those assembled at The Fountain of Praise Church.
Hundreds of people gathered along the funeral procession route to pay their final respects to Floyd, and to express their grief and their frustration at the history of police violence against African Americans and the lack of action to eliminate it.
"We've been kneeling. Nothing happened. We've been peacefully protesting. Nothing happened,” Xavier Bradley told VOA. “Only until something gets destroyed they'll listen. Now we've got their ear, hopefully, we can put it to good use."