FILE - In this June 10, 2020, file photo, Philonise Floyd, a brother of George Floyd, speaks with civil rights attorney Ben Crump, right, during a House Judiciary Committee hearing. (Michael Reynolds/Pool via AP, File)

FILE - In this June 10, 2020, file photo, Philonise Floyd, a brother of George Floyd, speaks with civil rights attorney Ben Crump, right, during a House Judiciary Committee hearing. (Michael Reynolds/Pool via AP, File)

VIDEO: Floyd family meets with Biden as Congress mulls police bill

George Floyd’s death sparked a global reckoning over racism and growing calls for police reform

The anniversary of George Floyd’s death was supposed to a milestone moment, a time to celebrate passage of legislation to “root out systemic racism” in the criminal justice system, in the words of President Joe Biden. Instead, Floyd’s family visited Washington on Tuesday to mourn with Biden and prod legislators to act as they commemorate the loss of their brother, father and son one year ago.

Floyd’s death sparked a global reckoning over racism and growing calls for police reform, but a legislative response has been elusive. Still, congressional negotiators remain optimistic about the prospects for a bill, and say they’ve made progress toward an agreement this week.

It’s a high-profile legislative fight where Biden has notably taken a back seat, preferring to leave the work of crafting a compromise to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, in contrast to his fevered advocacy, both public and private, for his infrastructure bill and the COVID-19 relief package.

The Floyd family will have multiple opportunities to weigh in on the congressional efforts Tuesday. In addition to their visit to the White House, the Floyd family was meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Karen Bass, the lead House negotiator on the policing bill, as well as key senators.

While Biden set the anniversary of Floyd’s death as the initial deadline for legislation to reach his desk, the issue of police reform is a particularly politically thorny one. Congressional negotiators have struggled to find a compromise that can make it through an evenly-divided Senate.

Still, speaking on Tuesday on CNN, Philonese Floyd, Floyd’s brother, expressed optimism at the chances for an eventual bill to pass the Senate. “I think things have changed. I think it is moving slowly but we are making progress,” he said.

He spoke, too, to the gravity of the day for the Floyd family, saying his sister had called him just past midnight to tell him, “This is the day our brother left us.”

Ben Crump, the Floyd family’s lawyer called on Biden to “reiterate that we need to get it passed.”

It’s in line with the sentiment shared by many criminal justice advocates, who say the onus is on Congress, not the president, to act.

“It’s absolutely vital that members of Congress put partisan politics aside and pass meaningful reform to hold police officers responsible who act outside of their oath to protect and defend,” said Wade Henderson, interim president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in a statement to the AP.

Floyd died on May 25, 2020 after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than nine minutes, while Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe. His death sparked months of nationwide protests focused on systemic racism and a renewed debate over police reform in the U.S. Chauvin was convicted last month on multiple charges stemming from Floyd’s death.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would ban chokeholds by federal officers and end qualified immunity for law enforcement against civil lawsuits, as well as create national standards for policing in a bid to bolster accountability. It passed the House in March, but faces a much tougher road in the evenly-divided Senate.

On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the White House still sees the George Floyd Act as the appropriate vessel for police reform. She added, “What we’ve seen from the negotiators — and we’ve been in close touch with the negotiators as well — is that they still feel there is progress being made.”

White House advisers say Biden and his team have been in frequent touch with Capitol Hill negotiators over the legislation, but that this is an issue in which a high-profile public campaign by the president may do more harm than good, because of the political challenges surrounding the bill.

The biggest point of contention remains the issue of ending qualified immunity, which shields officers from legal action taken by victims and their families for alleged civil rights violations.

While progressives and many criminal justice reform advocates are insistent that it remain in the final version of the bill, some Democrats, most notably House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, have said they could see a compromise on the issue. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he wouldn’t support any bill that ends qualified immunity.

Congressional negotiators are largely staying tight-lipped on the details of a compromise, but they’ve been working near daily on their efforts to hammer out a bill, and this week some sounded optimistic about its future. Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who has been working with Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey to hammer out a compromise, said Monday that “I think we’re starting to see a frame” for the final legislation.

“We had good progress over the weekend, I thought. And I think we can see the end of the tunnel,” he said.

On qualified immunity, Scott’s proposal would allow individuals to pursue legal action against police departments instead of individual officers, as a compromise, but it’s unclear if advocacy groups would get behind such a proposal.

Booker echoed Scott’s comments on CNN, saying he was “encouraged” and that “I’m really hopeful that we can get something done in the weeks ahead, not months.”

Alexandra Jaffe, The Associated Press

racism

Just Posted

Tammy Bradford, manager of the Creston Museum & Archives for the last 23 years, wants to welcome visitors to check out their exhibits and programs this summer. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston Museum encourages summer visitors to check out programs and activities

After some temporary closures of indoor exhibits due to COVID-19, the museum has re-opened to welcome visitors

The latest EKASS survey confirms a steady decline in substance use among EK youth over the years. (image compilation via Pixabay)
Latest survey shows steady decline in adolescent substance use over the years

Starting in 2002, the survey has been conducted every two years to monitor changes in substance use patterns, attitudes and behaviors amongst East Kootenay youth.

Nasukin Jason Louie of the Lower Kootenay Band poses under the mural in the administration building. The mural depicts past elders David Luke, Wilfred Jacobs, Isobel Louie, Charlotte Basil, and Louis White. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Lower Kootenay Band announces cross-border COVID-19 vaccine clinic

In partnership with the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, the clinic will be held on National Indigenous Peoples Day

Protestors blocking Columbia Avenue Saturday evening. Photo: Betsy Kline
Old growth protesters begin 24-hour blockade of Castlegar’s main street

Members of Extinction Rebellion plan to stay overnight

Forty sled dogs were seized by the BC SPCA from a Salmo kennel in February. A recent ruling has decided the dogs won’t be returned. Photo: Gounsil/Flickr
BC Farm Industry Review Board rules against Salmo kennel after 40 sled dogs seized

Spirit of the North Kennels was also ordered to pay BC SPCA $64,000

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read