5 takeaways from House hearing with George Floyd's brother pleading for policing reform
Here are five takeaways from Wednesday's emotional hearing with Philonise Floyd.
The day after George Floyd was laid to rest in his hometown of Houston, his brother Philonise Floyd was among a dozen witnesses called to testify in an emotional House hearing Wednesday on racial profiling and police misconduct.
Their testimony added to the growing sense of urgency on Capitol Hill to reform policing practices and address systemic racism in law enforcement.
Here are five key takeaways from the hearing:
1. George Floyd's brother believes Chauvin's actions 'personal' and 'premeditated,' race played factor
One memorable moment came when Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., asked Floyd if he could think of any reason why Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin would need to hold a knee on his brother's neck for eight minutes.
Floyd said that he thought it was "personal."
"Because they worked at the same place, so for him to do something like that, it had to be premeditated and he wanted to do it," he added.
"Intentional?" Nadler asked.
"Yes, sir," Floyd responded.
Floyd later said that he believed race played a part in his brother's death, before continuing to say his brother and Chauvin, must have known each other prior to May 25.
"George, wherever he goes, he impacts a place, he talks to a lot of people. He's just a gentle giant. So, at that club, and Mr. Chauvin worked there, I know that he knew him. Everybody knew him. The mayor knew him. Killed my brother just because he did not like him, and it has to be racist," he said.
"It has to be something to do with racism," he said.
2. Republicans seize on movement to 'defund the police,' call on Democrats to reduce police union resistance
Republicans on the committee seized the opportunity to criticize Democrats for emerging calls to defund the police, though Democratic leadership has largely called for reform, not a complete dismantling.
"This Congress started off with the Democrats' folks on the left saying 'we should abolish ICE' then move to 'we should abolish the entire Department of Homeland Security,' and now they're talking about abolishing the police," said Ranking Member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.
The Republicans' three witnesses -- Dan Bongino, a conservative radio host, Darrell Scott, a pastor, and Angela Jacobs Underwood, the sister of a Federal Protective Services officer who was killed during protests -- all denounced ideas of defunding police in their opening statements.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., also called on Democrats to do more in getting rid of "bad cops" since he said they are tied more closely to unions.
"A lot of the police union activity that we have seen has been to protect bad cops and the police unions in this country. And my Democratic colleagues, you know have more friends and those unions then we Republicans do. You are going to have to step up to the plate and to be cooperative with communities and getting rid of the bad cops," he said.
"Having a database isn't going to get somebody fired who ought to be fired. And the sooner we get the bad cops off the force," Sensenbrenner added. "The sooner there will no longer be any bad apples, spoil a whole barrel."
3. GOP compares Officer Pat Underwood's death to George Floyd's
Philonise Floyd, the Democrats' marquee witness, was not the only one present to recently lose a family member.
Angela Underwood Jacobs' brother, David Patrick Underwood, was reportedly shot and killed near recent protests in Oakland, California, and Republicans repeatedly sought to equate the deaths of Underwood and Floyd.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who does not serve on the committee, even made an appearance to introduce Underwood Jacobs.
"We pray that justice comes swiftly and completely for Pat, for George Floyd, and all victims of violence. Pat Underwood should be alive today. George Floyd should be alive today. David Dorn should be alive today. And so should countless others," said McCarthy, mixing in fallen police officers and those who have fallen at their hands.
Jordan, before his questioning, also spoke of the two deaths as comparable tragedies.
"Mr. Floyd, the murder of your brother in the custody of the Minneapolis police is a tragedy. Never should have happened," Jordan said. "Ms. Underwood Jacobs, the murder of your brother by the riders in Oakland is a tragedy. It never should have happened."
When Rep. Martha Roby, a Republican from Alabama, allowed Floyd and Underwood Jacobs to use part the remainder of her question time to address the committee, she offered a side-by-side of their emotions.
"Sitting here, coming to try to tell you all about how I want justice for my brother, I just think about that video over and over again. It felt like eight hours and 46 minutes," Floyd said. "Everyday just looking at him, being anywhere, that is all people talk about. The rest of my life, that is all I ever see. Somebody looking at the video."
"Anybody with a heart, they know that is wrong. You don't do that to a human being. You don't even do that to an animal," he added.
Underwood Jacobs compared their situations before questioning why her brother, also a black man, is not being mourned.
"I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to my brother either before he was killed. I am also heartbroken for all of the other people that are in this country living every single day and feel unsafe just to drive to the store." she said. "I also have had the talk with my son."
"We sit here today at somewhat opposite ends of the spectrum, to a certain degree, but yet there is so much commonality amongst both of us. And the heartbreak, and the grief is unexplainable because it's very very hard to articulate, when your entire world has been turned upside down," she said. "I'm wondering where is that, where's the outrage, for a fallen officer that also happens to be African American."
4. Crump argues for concrete reforms to 'qualified immunity,' national registry, ban on chokeholds
Several of the Democrats' witnesses offered many of the reforms presented in their Justice in Policing Act, a sweeping police reform package aimed at improving accountability and police training, presented earlier this week.
Floyd family lawyer Benjamin Crump called for a handful of concrete reforms to lawmakers: mandatory body cameras, appropriate level of force based on level of threat, banning restraints like chokeholds and strangleholds, and reforms to how 'qualified immunity' is applied to police officers.
"If officers know they have immunity, they act with impunity. If officers know they can unjustly take the life of a black person with no accountability, they will continue to do so," he said. "That is what you saw in the eyes of Derek Chauvin with his hand casually tucked into his pocket as he extinguished the life of George Floyd."
"Immunity breeds impunity for these police," Crump said, referring to a doctrine that shields government officials from being held personally liable for constitutional violations.
"It allows for all of those names -- all those Black Lives Matter names to keep adding up, adding up, adding up. So we need that there. We need the registry. We need to attack this like it's an epidemic on Black people, because that is what we see happening in our communities," he added.
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., while acknowledging problems with qualified immunity, argued there were concerns with a full repeal.
"Have you considered the fact that some of these police officers out of fear of the rather litigious society we live in now unfortunately will now be afraid in the street to go and do their jobs and be proactive in communities that needed most?" Collins said. "Qualified immunity has issues. You can work around the edges, but the margins matter."
5. Floyd makes emotional plea that his brother not die 'in vain'
Floyd was emotional as he read his prepared statement that he wants to ensure his brother's death wasn't in vain, stopping to regain his composure at one point.
"I couldn't take care of George the day he was killed, but maybe by speaking with you today, I can help make sure that his death isn't in vain. 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," he said.
"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 today to ask you to make it stop. Stop the pain. Stop us from being tired. George's calls for help were ignored," Floyd continued. "This is 2020. Enough is enough. The people marching in the streets are telling you enough is enough."
"If his death ends up changing the world for the better -- and I think it will, I think it has -- then he died as he lived. It is on you to make sure his death isn't in vain," he repeated to lawmakers.
GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy, in his appearance said to Floyd: "I'll make one promise to you, your brother will not have died in vain."
While congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump have not expressed a willingness to help pass the Democrats' proposal, they are drafting a reform proposal of their own.
This report was featured in the Thursday, June 11, 2020, episode of “Start Here,” ABC News’ daily news podcast.
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