The gesture is symbolic. Democrats in the US Congress knelt on Monday June 8 to observe 8 minutes 46 of silence in tribute to the “martyr” of George Floyd and other black Americans killed by the police, before unveiling a proposal for reform of the forces of order. The Democratic President of the Congress, Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Senate Democratic minority, Chuck Schumer, as well as about twenty parliamentarians, including several black American elected representatives, were gathered in the “Hall of Emancipation”, named in homage to slaves who worked on the construction of the Capitol in the 18th century in Washington.
8 minutes 46: the time spent by a white policeman with his knee resting on the neck of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American, until he suffocated and killed him on May 25 during his arrest . An event which provoked a historic movement of anger in the United States. Deploring the “martyr of George Floyd”, Nancy Pelosi called on the other parliamentarians to list with her the names of other victims of police brutality or racist violence.
A “structural” police reform project
George Floyd was arrested on May 25 in Minneapolis because police, alerted by a merchant, suspected him of having wanted to forge a counterfeit 20-dollar bill. Since his death, the United States has been rocked by a wave of demonstrations. “Today, this movement of national distress is transformed into a national movement of action,” said Nancy Pelosi, then presenting a project for “structural” police reform. The purpose of this bill is to “end police brutality, hold the police to account, improve transparency, and create far-reaching, structural changes that protect the right of all Americans to security and fair justice.”
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The Justice and Policing Act intends, among other things, to create a national register for police officers committing blunders, facilitate legal proceedings against officers and rethink their recruitment and training. In particular, the law would prohibit the dangerous technique of “choking”. She does not plan to “cut police funding”, as demanded by some in the left wing of the party, as well as by demonstrators.
A compromised text in the Senate
The future of this text is however very compromised in the Senate, with a Republican majority. President Donald Trump, who is running for a second term, accuses Democrats of wanting to cut police funding. And “now the radical Left Democrats want to cut budgets and abandon our police. Sorry, I want law and order, ”he tweeted again Monday morning. Less than 150 days before the presidential election, he made it a campaign argument against his opponent Joe Biden, who last week called for a major police reform. “The president must not stand in the way of justice,” warned Nancy Pelosi.
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During the tribute, Democratic leaders were accompanied by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the parliamentary group of African American elected officials, as well as other senior congressional officials. All wore kenté stoles, an African fabric. It is a tribute “to our African heritage, and for those of us without this heritage (…) of an act of solidarity,” said the elected Karen Bass.