Democrats call for Congress to take action following death of George Floyd

Democrats call for Congress to take action following death of George Floyd
© Greg Nash

Top Democrats in the House are calling for Congress to take action in the wake of the death of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis police custody.

During a House Democratic Caucus conference call on Monday, Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyThe Hill's Campaign Report: Colorado, Utah primary results bring upsets, intrigue Progressives zero in on another House chairman in primary Ocasio-Cortez pitches interns to work for her instead of McConnell MORE (D-Mass.) asked her colleagues to sign onto a resolution — introduced alongside Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarTucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' The Hill's Campaign Report: Colorado, Utah primary results bring upsets, intrigue Progressive lawmakers call for conditions on Israel aid MORE (D-Minn.), Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chairwoman Karen BassKaren Ruth BassThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump takes on CDC over schools Tim Scott says he's talking with House Democrats about reviving police reform bill Biden-Sanders 'unity task force' rolls out platform recommendations MORE (D-Calif.) and Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeState legislatures consider US Capitol's Confederate statues House eyes votes to remove symbols of Confederates from Capitol Nina Turner addresses Biden's search for a running mate MORE (D-Calif.) — aimed at rebuking police brutality, racial profiling and the use of excessive course, according to a source on the call. 

The source said Rep. Lucy McBathLucia (Lucy) Kay McBathPPP poll finds Biden leading in Georgia If Georgia primary was an attempt at voter suppression, it failed badly Floyd's brother urges Congress to take action MORE (D-Ga.) advocated for members to join 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’s (D-Fla.) proposed commission that would make recommendations “to address social problems affecting black men and boys.”

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The push for action comes as protests against police brutality have erupted in cities across the country, sparked by the death of George Floyd.

Floyd died while being arrested by Minneapolis police and a widely shared video shows an officer kneeling on his neck for nine minutes as Floyd says he can't breathe and then becomes unresponsive.

Over the course of the past several days, peaceful daytime protests in several different major cities have escalated at night into violent clashes between law enforcement and demonstrators, with looting and property damage prompting numerous mayors to put curfews into place.  

On the call, Bass noted that African Americans have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, adding that the black community has faced a number of tragedies in recent weeks.  

“While we're dealing with the disproportionate death rate, there was harassment that started and black people were being assaulted by police and in some cases arrested for not wearing masks, or for not doing the public health recommendation of social distancing. We had the three murders, and so it's kind of like you know all of these events at one time, a pandemic upon a pandemic,” she told members, according to a Democratic aide.  

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“This is not a CBC issue, this is an issue for all of us because all of us represent diverse populations. Twenty-nine years ago, when the Rodney King beating was on video we were almost excited because we believed finally there was no way they could deny that this didn't happen. We were confident that these officers were going to be arrested and convicted, because it happened on video. But it didn’t. In the last 20 years, how many videos have we seen? We have to end this.”

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiAs coronavirus surges, Trump tries to dismantle healthcare for millions Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus poses questions about school safety; Trump commutes Roger Stone sentence Pelosi plans legislation to limit pardons, commutations after Roger Stone move MORE (D-Calif.) told members on the call that this “needs to be a transformative” moment, asserting that historic action will be taken. 

“So, my colleagues again, as some of our others have said, let’s, you know, understand the moment ... we’ve seen it again and again and nothing much has happened. But this has to be pivotal. It has to be transformative,” she told members. 

“And it has to happen. The Congressional Black Caucus, working with the Judiciary Committee, will strongly, forcefully put out a message soon.” 

While it's unclear what legislative action will be taken as of now, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerNadler: Barr dealings with Berman came 'awfully close to bribery' Nadler wins Democratic primary Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November MORE (D-N.Y.) expressed Democrats' “commitment to addressing systemic racism and police brutality in America amid the absence of any leadership from the president during this time of tremendous pain and suffering,” Democratic caucus sources said.  

Several influential Democratic lawmakers including Rep. John LewisJohn LewisCongresswoman accidentally tweets of death of Rep. John Lewis, who's still alive IRS, taxpayers face obstacles ahead of July 15 filing deadline We must move beyond 'the rank of a mere citizen' MORE (Ga.), a civil rights icon, have called for the demonstrations to remain peaceful.  

“To the rioters here in Atlanta and across the country: I see you, and I hear you. I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness. Justice has, indeed, been denied for far too long. Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way,” he said in a statement on Saturday

“Organize. Demonstrate. Sit-in. Stand-up. Vote. Be constructive, not destructive. History has proven time and again that non-violent, peaceful protest is the way to achieve the justice and equality that we all deserve.”

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesReparations bill gains steam following death of George Floyd Karen Bass's star rises after leading police reform push The Hill's 12:30 Report: Supreme Court ruling marks big win for abortion rights groups MORE (D-N.Y.) told members Thursday’s caucus call “will be a conversation devoted to race in America.”