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

DAVID VAN DEVENTER
Cowichan Citizen and Lake Cowichan Gazette announce new publisher

David van Deventer has been with Black Press Media since 2014

Island Health is bringing a vaccination clinic to Lake Cowichan starting June 23. (Submitted)
COVID vaccine clinic coming to Lake Cowichan as area numbers lag

Clinic will operate at arena starting June 23

The Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society, which has been operating a treatment centre on land leased from the Nanoose First Nation for 35 years (pictured), has begun a fundraising campaign to open a new centre near Duncan. (Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society photo)
New Indigenous treatment centre to be built near Duncan

Centre will help survivors of residential schools

Rick Ruppenthal of Saltair will host a 12-hour talk-a-thon Friday, June 18 over Facebook live. (Photo submitted)
Talk-a-thon to focus on men’s mental health issues

Saltair man spearheading a campaign to generate more conversation during fundraiser

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Marine biologist Rick Harbo pulls a lid from the Ladysmith harbour, which he uses to monitor the presence of native and non-native species in the Ladysmith harbour. (Cole Schisler photo)
Unidentified sponge may be the latest marine species invading Island harbour

Marine biologist finding dozens of alien species in warm-water Ladysmith Harbour, none threatening

Island Health is bringing a vaccination clinic to Lake Cowichan starting June 23. (Submitted)
Island Health opening COVID-19 vaccine clinic to boost lagging Cowichan Lake numbers

Cowichan Valley West the only Island area under 60 per cent in adult first dose totals

For more than a year, Rene Doyharcabal and a small group of neighbours in Langley’s Brookswood neighbourhood have been going out every evening to show support for first responders by honking horns and banging pots and drums. Now, a neighbour has filed a noise complaint. (Langley Advance Times file)
Noise complaint filed against nightly show of support for health care workers in B.C. city

Langley Township contacted group to advise of complaint, but no immediate action is expected

A nurse prepares a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Yukon Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Thomas
Vancouver couple pleads guilty to breaking Yukon COVID rules, travelling for vaccine

Chief Judge Michael Cozens agreed with a joint sentencing submission,

An inmate in solitary confinement given lunch on Tuesday, May 10, 2016. THE CANADIAN/Lars Hagberg
22-hour cap on solitary confinement for youth in custody still too long: B.C. lawyer

Jennifer Metcalfe was horrified to hear a youth had spent a total of 78 straight days in isolation

Flowers and candles were laid on the driveway of the Weber home, where Kerri Weber was found dead in November 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria man to stand trial for death of his wife last November

Ken Weber is charged with second-degree murder of his wife, Kerri Weber

The discovery of a missing woman’s body in Nanaimo earlier this month is now being treated as homicide, say Nanaimo RCMP. (File photo)
Discovery of woman’s body in downtown Nanaimo now being investigated as a homicide

Amy Watts was found dead near Albert Street and Victoria Crescent on June 3

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Most Read