A group of House and Senate Democrats knelt in solidarity with anti-racism protesters Monday as they unveiled a sweeping police reform bill called the “Justice in Policing Act” at a morning press conference.
After an opening prayer from Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Democrats, led by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), took a knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the length of time a Minneapolis police officer knelt on George Floyd’s neck, leading to Floyd’s death.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) June 8, 2020
“Today we gather here in solemn reverence to not just mark his tragic death but to give honor to his life,” Booker said in his opening prayer. After the silence, Booker added the names of several black individuals killed in confrontations in recent weeks.
“George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor. May we honor those dead by protecting all who are alive,” Booker said.
House and Senate Democrats worked over the weekend on sweeping law enforcement reforms aimed, they say, at curbing police violence. The bill, unveiled Monday morning, would ban chokeholds and so-called “no-knock” warrants on a federal level, according to NBC News.
The bill takes its cue from bipartisan criminal justice reform efforts on the table for nearly a decade and also requires “local police departments to send data on the use of force to the federal government,” creates a grant program to fund state-level use of force and police misconduct investigations, and makes it easier for “people to recover damages when police departments violate their civil rights,” per the outlet.
“They, like so many Americans, want to do something,” Booker told media. “And we all know we’re all working on legislation but the conversations that led to this was because people feel, in my opinion, that we need to do more.”
“For all of us, this would be a moment of solidarity and sort of sharing common spirited grief so it was very moving to me to see everyone,” he added.
Nancy Pelosi, not one to miss an opportunity to speak, added that “[t]he martyrdom of George Floyd gave the American experience a moment of national anguish as we grieve for the black Americans killed by police brutality today.”
“This moment of national anguish is being transformed into a movement of national action as Americans from across the country peacefully protest to demand an end to injustice,” Pelosi said. “Today, with the justice and policing at the Congress is standing with those fighting for justice and taking action.”
The bill’s unveiling marked the first time that House and Senate legislators have met together in months since the start of a coronavirus-related lockdown which kept Congressional legislators working from home.
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