The brother of George Floyd, an African American man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police, called on U.S. lawmakers Wednesday during a congressional hearing on national police reform to approve legislation that restricts the use of force by police against citizens.
Philonise Floyd’s plea was made before the House Judiciary Committee on behalf of his brother. George Floyd died May 25 after officer Derek Chauvin held a knee to his neck for nearly 9 minutes as Floyd called out for his mother and said he could not breathe.
Viral video of the incident sparked nationwide protests urging reforms.
"I can’t tell you the kind of pain you feel when you watch something like that. When you watch your big brother, who you’ve looked up to your whole entire life, die. Die begging for your mom," Floyd said. "I'm tired. I'm tired of the pain I'm feeling now, and I'm tired of the pain I feel every time another black person is killed for no reason. I'm here to ask you to make it stop. Stop the pain.”
The committee also heard from the sister of Federal Protective Services Officer Dave Patrick Underwood, who was fatally shot during protests and violence that erupted in Oakland, California, after George Floyd’s death. Angela Underwood Jacobs told the committee that solutions to police brutality and racial injustice must be achieved through peaceful means.
“When innocent people are harmed in the name of justice … we all lose,” Jacobs said. “There is a path to achieving what we desire. It is the same path we started on during the civil rights movement.”
She said America “must find lawful, peaceful solutions that benefit everyone.”
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.
House Democrats have proposed a package of reforms that include 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 for this month.
Republican leaders in the Senate have tasked Sen. 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,” said Scott, the Senate’s only black Republican.
Also Wednesday, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton and eight other Republican senators introduced a resolution calling for justice for Floyd and rejecting recent demands to defund police departments.
“We know that violent crime disproportionally affects low-income communities, and that law enforcement plays a critical role in protecting life and preserving a free and functioning society,” Cruz said. “We also know that law enforcement has an important responsibility in upholding our criminal justice system. Though our nation has taken many troubled turns on our continuing march towards justice, defunding and abolishing police departments will undoubtedly take us backwards in that endeavor.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, who heads the chamber’s 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, Colorado; and Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Floyd died. The latest move came from the police department in Phoenix, Arizona, which announced the immediate ban on the technique on Tuesday.
More changes came Wednesday in the city of Buffalo, New York, where Mayor Byron Brown announced he is introducing a Public Protection Unit to replace the police Emergency Response Team.
Members of the ERT were suspended after being caught on video shoving a 75-year-old protester who had to be hospitalized. Buffalo will also stop arresting people for minor, non-violent offenses such as marijuana possession and make it easier for members of the public to see the video taken by body cameras worn by officers.
“We will shift policing in Buffalo away from enforcement and to a restorative model that promotes stronger community bonds, civic engagement and an end to young black men, black people, being caught in a cycle of crime and incarceration by consciously limiting their negative engagement with police,” Brown said at a news conference.