The brother of George Floyd testified Wednesday at a House hearing on racial profiling and police brutality, tearfully urging lawmakers to “stop the pain” as he recalled in vivid detail how his older sibling died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
“I couldn’t take care of George the day he was killed, but maybe by speaking with you today, I can make sure that his death would not be in vain,” an emotional Philonise Floyd told lawmakers. “To make sure that he is more than another face on a t-shirt. More than another name on a list that won’t stop growing.”
“I’m here today to ask you to make it stop. Stop the pain,” he said. “Stop us from being tired.”
The House Judiciary Committee hearing follows riots and protests that engulfed the country in response to Floyd’s death — and amid a growing push to abolish, reform or defund police departments. All those issues are sure to surface on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
The hearing seeks “to examine the crisis of racial profiling, police brutality and lost trust between police departments,” according to the committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a similar hearing on “Police Use of Force and Community Relations” on June 16.
The images of Officer Derek Chauvin — who now faces charges including second-degree murder — kneeling into Floyd’s neck sparked a nationwide outcry and demands for reform. It has also led to similar protests and legislative moves across the globe.
“The people marching in the streets are telling you enough is enough,” Floyd told lawmakers. “Be the leaders that this country, this world, needs. Do the right thing.”
Referring to how police were called over suspicion his brother was using a counterfeit $20 bill, he testified: “He didn’t deserve to die over 20 dollars … is that what a black man is worth?”
House Democrats on Monday introduced a bill that would enact a number of reforms, including curbing qualified immunity, creating a “National Police Misconduct Registry” and making changes to police training. But it has fallen short of the demands by the “Defund the Police” movement touted by activists and some Democrats.
“Millions of Americans now call out ‘I can’t breathe’ as a rallying cry in streets all across our country, demanding fundamental change in the culture of law enforcement and meaningful accountability for officers who commit misconduct,” Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said. “Today we answer their call.”
“Defund the Police” has gained steam across the country, although that phrase has been interpreted differently, ranging from changes in police budgets as proposed in New York City, reforms to policing methods, to the outright abolition of police being pushed by the Minneapolis City Council.
The hearing on Wednesday also featured Floyd family attorney Ben Crump, NAACP Legal Defense Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill and Georgetown Law School Professor Paul Butler.
Republican witnesses include Pastor Darrell Scott — who sits on President Trump’s executive transition team and is a senior pastor for the New Spirit Revival Center — and former U.S. Secret Service agent and conservative radio host Dan Bongino, a Fox News contributor. They have also invited Angela Jacobs — the first black woman elected to Lancaster City Council and whose brother Dave Patrick Underwood was shot and killed during recent protests and riots in Oakland, Calif.
Republicans joined Democrats in calling Floyd’s deaths a tragedy, but also drew attention to the death of Jacobs’ brother — a Federal Protective Service officer — amid the rioting and looting that took place. Republicans also pushed back against calls by activists to defund the police.
“It is pure insanity to defund the police and the fact that my Democratic colleagues won’t speak out against this crazy policy is just frightening,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said.
The hearing comes a day after Floyd’s funeral in Houston, and on the same day as the funeral of retired St. Louis police Capt. David Dorn, 77, who was fatally shot June 2 while trying to protect a friend’s business from looters.