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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 Pressley'It's not a slogan': Progressives push back on Obama's comments on 'defund the police' movement Overnight Health Care: CDC panel recommends who gets vaccine first | McConnell offering new relief bill | Hahn downplays White House meeting on vaccines Louisville mayor declares racism a public health crisis MORE (D-Mass.) asked her colleagues to sign onto a resolution — introduced alongside Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan Omar'It's not a slogan': Progressives push back on Obama's comments on 'defund the police' movement Meet the three Democrats who could lead foreign affairs in the House Biden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far MORE (D-Minn.), Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chairwoman Karen BassKaren Ruth BassJoyce Beatty elected next chair of Congressional Black Caucus Feinstein pushes for California secretary of state to replace Harris in Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience MORE (D-Calif.) and Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeFeinstein pushes for California secretary of state to replace Harris in Senate Battle for Pentagon post in Biden Cabinet heats up Louisville mayor declares racism a public health crisis 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 McBathMaloney vows to overhaul a House Democratic campaign machine 'stuck in the past' Record number of Black women elected to Congress in 2020 McBath wins rematch against Handel in Georgia House race MORE (D-Ga.) advocated for members to join Rep. Frederica WilsonFrederica Patricia WilsonFive House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet Lobbying world Harris calls it 'outrageous' Trump downplayed coronavirus 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 PelosiOn The Money: Unemployment gains lower than expected | Jobs report lights fire under coronavirus relief talks Hillicon Valley: Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security | Biden says China must play by 'international norms' | House Democrats use Markup app for leadership contest voting Bipartisan governors call on Congress to pass coronavirus relief package 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 NadlerHouse passes sweeping reform bill to decriminalize marijuana This week: Congress races to wrap work for the year Top Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon 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 LewisKwanza Hall wins race to briefly succeed John Lewis in Congress Congress must act to protect and expand Social Security benefits Ossoff features Obama in TV ad ahead of Georgia runoff 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 JeffriesHillicon Valley: Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security | Biden says China must play by 'international norms' | House Democrats use Markup app for leadership contest voting House Democrats use Markup app for leadership contest voting House Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress MORE (D-N.Y.) told members Thursday’s caucus call “will be a conversation devoted to race in America.”