Pelosi says George Floyd was 'murdered on TV'

Pelosi says George Floyd was 'murdered on TV'
© Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse votes unanimously to extend deadline for coronavirus small-business loan program Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House approves .5T green infrastructure plan | Rubio looks to defense bill to block offshore drilling, but some fear it creates a loophole | DC-area lawmakers push for analysis before federal agencies can be relocated MORE (D-Calif.) said Thursday George Floyd, the African American man who died following a violent arrest in Minnesota, was "murdered" at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department.

"We saw it on TV — him being murdered on TV," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol.

Pelosi stopped short of calling for the arresting officers to be charged with murder, advocating for the various investigations into Floyd's death to run their course. But she strongly suggested the officers should be held criminally accountable.

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"Let's take our lead from them in terms of how these things are sequenced," Pelosi said. "But we did see a murder on TV. And it wasn't self-defense."

Appearing on CNN a short time later, she was even more blunt, calling Floyd's death "an execution."

"We saw it, so we can't deny it or qualify it," she told the network. "So justice has to be done."

Floyd, a 46-year-old Houston native living in the Minneapolis suburbs, died Monday, shortly after his arrest by city law enforcers. A video taken by a passerby shows Floyd lying on the street with his face pressed into the pavement and the knee of one of the officers on his neck.

Several spectators are heard protesting the treatment, and so is Floyd.

"I cannot breathe," he says. "It'll kill me, I can't breathe."

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Minutes later, still pinned to the ground, Floyd appears unresponsive. A medical team called to the scene found him without a pulse, according to local reports. Doctors pronounced him dead at an area hospital a short time later. 

Floyd's death, along with similar incidents involving the killing of unarmed black men, has ignited waves of outrage across the country, raising new questions about police tactics and training, racial disparities in the criminal justice system and the use of excessive force by law enforcers, particularly when the target is black.

Violent protests erupted Tuesday and Wednesday night in Minneapolis, leaving cars ablaze and shops looted — a scene reminiscent of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles in 1992. Wednesday evening, similar protests flared up in L.A. 

The four Minneapolis officers involved in Floyd's arrest were quickly fired, and several investigations are ongoing, including a civil rights probe being conducted by the FBI. On Thursday, the Justice Department vowed to make the case a "top priority." 

But a growing list of congressional lawmakers say that's hardly enough.

House Democrats are eyeing a variety of responses, including the adoption of more stringent federal policing standards and a pressure campaign on the Justice Department to get more aggressive in tackling the issue.

"There are all kinds of expressions of concern," Pelosi said. "But not just expressions of concern, plans to take action so that this stops." 

Pelosi is pointing specifically to legislation, sponsored by Rep. Frederica WilsonFrederica Patricia WilsonGOP struggles to confront racial issues On The Money: Republicans start bracing for shutdown fight in run-up to election | Mnuchin: White House seriously considering second round of stimulus checks | Labor leaders under pressure on police unions Labor leaders under pressure to oust police unions MORE (D-Fla.), to create a new federal commission that would evaluate the status of African American men around the country, with designs to improve it.

But she emphasized that the Wilson bill is just one facet of a much broader House response, which will be spearheaded by leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus. At least one lawmaker, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarThe Hill's Campaign Report: Colorado, Utah primary results bring upsets, intrigue Progressive lawmakers call for conditions on Israel aid Black lives and the CBC: What happens to a dream deferred? MORE (D), is working on a criminal justice reform package designed to address the racial inequities in law enforcement. And leaders of the House Judiciary Committee are weighing separate actions, focused on the Justice Department.  

In the meantime, Pelosi said Democrats are eager for "justice" following the Floyd death.

"We saw a murder take place before our very eyes," she said. "And so the fact that the police officers were fired, that's one thing. But there has to be some justice in all of this."