One of the brothers of George Floyd, whose death in Minneapolis sparked protests around the world, is scheduled to speak to a Democratic-led congressional panel on Wednesday as lawmakers take on the twin issues of police violence and racial injustice.
Philonise Floyd, 42, of Missouri City, Texas, near Houston, will testify before the House of Representatives judiciary committee, along with family attorney Ben Crump and 10 others at the first congressional hearing to examine the social and political undercurrents that have fuelled weeks of protests nationwide and overseas.
George Floyd’s death on May 25 after a policeman knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes was the latest in a string of killings of African-American men and women by police that have sparked anger on America’s streets and fresh calls for reforms.
“For every incident of excessive force that makes headlines, the ugly truth is that there are countless others that we never hear about,” House judiciary committee chair Jerrold Nadler said this week. “This is a systemic problem that requires a comprehensive solution.”
The judiciary panel is preparing to shepherd a sweeping package of legislation, aimed at combating police violence and racial injustice, to the House floor by July 4, and is expected to hold further hearings next week to prepare the bill for a full House vote. It is unclear how much, if any, agreement exists from Republicans, who control the Senate.
As well, there could be pushback at the state or local level, where many decisions about policing resources are carried out.
Other witnesses include attorney Ben Crump — who has served as attorney for a number of victims’ families, including Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery — NAACP Legal Defence Fund president Sherrilyn Ifill and Pastor Darrell Scott, a member of Republican President Donald Trump’s National Diversity Coalition.
Democrats demonizing police, Gaetz says
The hearing will also provide a platform for House Republicans, who like President Donald Trump, have responded to protests largely by underscoring their support for police and accusing Democrats of wanting to cut off police funding altogether.
“Where you demonize the police, they stop engaging with the community. If we stand with the police, it will be better for all Americans,” Florida’s Matt Gaetz, a Republican on the judiciary panel, tweeted on Tuesday.
The Republican witness list includes the partisan Fox News host Dan Bongino, a staunch Trump supporter and former Secret Service agent for George W. Bush and Barack Obama. On Wednesday morning, unprompted, Bongino tweeted that Obama “was the most corrupt president in U.S. history.”
In addition to Bongino, Republicans also invited Angela Underwood Jacobs to speak. Her brother, Patrick Underwood, was a federal officer gunned down last week in Oakland, Calif., in circumstances that are still unclear. There have been no arrests yet in the fatal shooting.
The push for defunding is favoured by many progressive groups and activists but opposed by a number of top Democrats including presumptive nominee Joe Biden.
“We need to root out systemic racism across our laws and institutions, and we need to make sure black Americans have a real shot to get ahead.” Biden wrote in an opinion piece published in USA Today on Wednesday