Following the justified and widely-celebrated guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd, Black congressional leaders, including Representatives Joyce Beatty of Ohio, Karen Bass of California, Cori Bush of Missouri and Vice President Kamala Harris, renewed calls to further honor Floyd by pushing forward with the passage of the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.”
Errin Haines and Amanda Becker of the nonprofit newsroom The 19th reported that following the verdict announcement, “the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, the first Black Lives Matter activist elected to Congress and the lead sponsor of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, standing with fellow CBC members and congressional leadership, spoke in front of the U.S Capitol in the wake of the jury decision, expressing relief and urging action.”
“We are hopeful that today will be the catalyst to turn the pain, the agony, the justice delayed into actions that go far beyond today,” said Beatty. “We will continue to say all of the names. We will fight continuously for all those who died or who have been injured senselessly by law enforcement. Black lives matter. Justice matters.”
Bass said the verdict in the Floyd case could ultimately help transform policing in America for the better. “For a moment, we have a little bit of relief,” she said. “In my opinion, this is the human rights issue in the United States of America. Today just marks the beginning of a new phase in a long struggle to bring justice.”
“All we’re doing is saying our lives matter. We want our children to grow up, we want to survive, we want to have the same quality of life as other folks get,” Bush said. “Justice for us is saving lives. As an activist, as a legislator, that’s the work.”
Harris watched the announcement of the trial’s verdict along with President Biden from the White House and spoke about the case afterward, expressing how close she felt to the case and how pleased she was with its outcome.
“The daughter of civil rights activists and a former prosecutor who co-sponsored the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act as a U.S. senator last summer, [Harris] said racial injustice is an American problem that ‘is holding our nation back from realizing our full potential,’” Haines and Becker reported.
“A measure of justice isn’t the same as equal justice. This verdict brings us a step closer, and the fact is we still have work to do,” Vice President Harris said. “We still must reform the system. We are all part of George Floyd’s legacy, and our job now is to honor it and to honor him.”
Originally introduced to the House in summer 2020, where it passed easily, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act includes a number of anti-racist reform policies. Haines and Becker reported that “the bill would prohibit discriminatory profiling, mandate training, ban chokeholds, prohibit no-knock warrants, require the use of body cameras by officers and allow individuals to recover civil damages when a law enforcement officer is found to have violated their constitutional rights.”
After passing in the House last year, the bill languished in the then-Republican-controlled Senate and never put up for a floor vote. When Bass reintroduced the bill to the House in February 2021, it was approved for a second time, but even with Democrats in control of the Senate this time around, pundits still worry the bill won’t have enough votes to pass and could be challenged with a filibuster.
“History will look back at this moment and see it as an inflection moment,” Harris said after Chauvin’s verdict was announced. “America has a long history of systemic racism. Black Americans and Black men, in particular, have been treated as less than human. Because of smartphones, so many Americans have now seen the racial injustice that Black Americans have known for generations.”
Pressing the Senate to take up the Policing Reform Act and put it to a vote on the floor, Harris expressed hope for the positive changes it could help to bring about if passed, calling it “not a panacea but a start” and something that is “long overdue.”