George Floyd's brother, civil rights leaders and law enforcement officials are testifying Wednesday at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on issues of racial profiling, police brutality and lost trust between police departments and the communities they serve.
The hearing comes one day after George Floyd was laid to rest in Houston, and just over two weeks since his death at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked protests across the country and around the world.
In an emotional opening statement, Philonise Floyd, George's younger brother, discussed the pain he feels over his brother's death and how he felt watching the video of his brother begging for his life.
"I'm here today to ask you to make it stop. Stop the pain. Stop us from being tired," Floyd said. "George's calls for help were ignored. 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."
He urged lawmakers on the committee to hold police officers "accountable when they do something wrong."
"If his death ends up changing the world for the better, and I think it will, then he died as he lived. It is on you to make sure his death isn't in vain," Floyd said to the assembled lawmakers.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler told reporters ahead of the hearing that hearing from Floyd will "help inform what we do." In his opening statement, Nadler addressed Floyd, saying that his brother "is not just a name chanted in the street."
Ranking Member Jim Jordan told Floyd that his brother's death was "as wrong as wrong could be." However, he also condemned rioters, and said that the "vast majority" of law enforcement officers are good people and first responders.
"It is absolute insanity to defund the police," Jordan said, referring to a common refrain from some protesters responding to Floyd's death. Congressional Democrats have avoided calling for defunding the police, an idea which calls for redistributing funds that typically would go to police departments elsewhere in communities.
In her opening statement, Angela Underwood Jacobs decried violence in riots. Underwood Jacobs' brother, a police officer, was recently killed in riots in Oakland, California.
"Fear, hatred, ignorance and blind violence snatched the life of my brother, Patrick, from all of us," Underwood Jacobs said. She added that systemic injustice could not be solved with looting or violence. She called the idea of defunding the police "ridiculous," saying it was not a solution to police brutality.
Houston police chief Art Acevedo said in his opening statement that "there is no denying that changes in policing must be made," but also argued in favor of reforming police departments instead of defunding them.
Ben Crump, the attorney representing Floyd's family, called for policing reforms like mandating that all officers wear body cameras.
"Changing the behavior of police and their relationship with people of color starts at the top. We need a national standard for policing behavior built on transparency and accountability," Crump said. Crump also called for reforming qualified immunity for police officers to make it easier for them to be prosecuted in civil court.
Philonise Floyd on his brother George: "He was mild-mannered, he didn't fight back, he listened to all of the officers. The man who took his life, who suffocated him for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, he still called him 'Sir' as he begged for his life" https://t.co/bcSZeCE63F pic.twitter.com/1jgalwr27e— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 10, 2020
Earlier this week, congressional Democrats unveiled a bill called the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 that includes a long list of proposals aimed at improving accountability in law enforcement. The bill does not include new funding for police departments, but nor does it call for defunding departments. Republicans are developing their own plan for police reform under the leadership of Senator Tim Scott.
Congresswoman Karen Bass touted the "bold, transformative legislation" she proposed on Monday, saying it would hold police officers accountable. Bass said that George Floyd would be alive if the legislation was already enacted, as it would ban chokeholds. Floyd was pinned to the ground for nearly nine minutes by a police officer with a knee to his neck.
The bill includes reforms to make it easier to prosecute police officers for misconduct in civil court, and would create a National Police Misconduct Registry. However, President Trump has expressed opposition to reforming qualified immunity.
Witnesses at Wednesday's hearing include:
- Philonise Floyd – Brother of George Floyd
- Vanita Gupta – President and CEO of the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights
- Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo – President, Major Cities Chiefs Association
- Pastor Darrell Scott – Senior Pastor for the New Spirit Revival Center and a co-founder of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump
- Sherrilyn Ifill – President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund
- Prof. Paul Butler – Georgetown University Law Center
- Angela Underwood Jacobs – First African-American woman elected to Lancaster City Council
- Ben Crump, Esq. – Civil rights attorney representing George Floyd's family
- Ron Davis – Legislative Affairs Chair of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives
- Daniel Bongino – Conservative radio show host and former U.S. Secret Service Agent
- Prof. Phillip Goff – Co-founder and President of the Center for Policing Equity
- Marc Morial – President and CEO of the National Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans from 1994 to 2002
This story was originally published by CBS News on June 10, 2020 at 11:37 a.m.