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Former Washington Journalist
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As protests and unrest continued in Minneapolis and across the country in response to the death of African American George Floyd in police custody, a growing number of US political figures across the political spectrum have been speaking out about the incident.
Floyd died Monday, after his arrest by Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer. Chavin knelt on Floyd’s neck for at least seven minutes while Floyd was handcuffed, lying face down on the road, and pleading for his life. Chauvin continued for around four minutes after Floyd stopped moving.
The incident, recorded by video from bystanders, has resulted in a national outrage.
“Let’s just personally address though the Floyd case. It’s so very, very sad because the American people saw an execution, a murder right before our very eyes,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “It wasn’t self-defense. There has to be justice in that case. And to hear Mr. Jackson and then Bridgette, Mr. Floyd’s sister, talk about him, she said he was such a gentle person, he wouldn’t hurt a fly. So lovely, so missed, our prayers and thoughts are with them.
“But whether or he wouldn’t hurt a fly or not doesn’t mean that he should be executed on TV or any place. We saw it so you can’t deny it or qualify it, so justice has to be done,” she added.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden also sharply denounced what happened to Floyd, comparing it to the very similar death of Eric Garner, another African American man who died in a police arrest situation in New York City several years ago.
“I just want to say a few words about the horrific killing of George Floyd in — in Minnesota. George Floyd’s life matters. It matters as much as mine. It matters as much as anyone’s in this country. At least it should have,” Biden said. “And watching his life be taken in the same manner, echoing nearly the same words of Eric Garner more than five years ago, ‘I can’t breathe’ is the tragic reminder that this was not an isolated incident but a part of an ingrained systemic cycle of injustice that still exists in this country.
“It cuts at the very heart of our sacred belief that all Americans are equal in rights and dignity. And it sends a very clear message to the black community and black lives that are under threat every single day,” Biden added.
Even Donald Trump chose to address the matter by week’s end at the White House with Attorney General William “Bill” Barr, mentioning the Floyd case in passing while discussing unrelated action against social media provider Twitter.
“It’s a very shocking sight. Bill and I were talking about it before, it’s one of the reasons Bill is here right now. Because as you know, we’re very much involved. And I’ve asked the Attorney General — FBI and the Attorney General to take a very strong look and to see what went on, because that was a very, very bad thing that I saw. I saw it last night, and I didn’t like it.”
MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell asked Janai Nelson, associate director-counsel at the NAACP Legal and Educational Fund, whether he has confidence that Barr will pursue the matter as strongly as Obama administration attorney general Eric Holder dealt with such matters during his tenure.
“Listen, we started a policing reform campaign back in 2014 following the brutal killing of Mike Brown, and we were making significant headway and continue to make headway today. We will not let up,” Nelson said, referring to the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014. “We will not give up the fight to reform public safety in this country, regardless of the Department of Justice that is currently overseeing the laws that are protecting or should be protecting communities across the country.
“William Barr has a duty as the chief law enforcement officer of this country to ensure that law enforcement and particularly departments that received federal funding under Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, any entity that receives federal funding cannot use those funds to engage in race discrimination,” Nelson added. “So William Barr and everyone who worked in the Civil Rights Department, has a duty-bound obligation to engage in a full investigation of this department and the officers and to ensure that there is no pattern and practice of discrimination that involves federal funds. And we will not relent from making those demands regardless of who is in office. They are responsible to all Americans and all communities.”
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