Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

March 3, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 1280, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, Mr. Chair.  Thank you, Madam Speaker.  I thank the gentleman from New York, the distinguished Chair of the Judiciary Committee, for yielding and for his leadership in bringing this important legislation to the Floor.  And I commend Congresswoman Karen Bass, Madam Chair, for your great leadership in this important legislation. 

Madam Speaker, nearly one year ago, George Floyd gasped his last words, ‘I can't breathe,’ and ignited a nationwide reckoning on the racial injustice and police brutality in America.  Americans from every corner of the country took to the streets to peacefully protest violence against Black Americans, waving Black Lives Matter flags, chanting the names of the murdered, repeating George Floyd's dying words, ‘I can't breathe.’ 

They turned their agony into action, but tragically, despite these mass protests, the injustice, killings continued.  Those protests were global.  They were all over the world.  Here, as Members of Congress and as Americans, we cannot accept this epidemic of injustice.  We cannot stay silent when one – when our most vulnerable and historically marginalized communities, people of color, those living in poverty, Americans with disabilities are being targeted and sometimes killed. 

That is why, today, the House will again pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and send it to the Senate and the President's desk so that it can finally become the law of the land.  I salute Congresswoman Karen Bass who has been relentless, persistent and absolutely courageous in her leadership on this legislation.  Thank you to the Congressional Black Caucus and its Chair, Joyce Beatty.  And Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler, thank you. 

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act fundamentally transforms the culture of policing with strong, unprecedented reforms.  This legislation will not erase centuries of systemic racism and excessive policing in America.  It will not bring back George Floyd, Breonna Taylor – say her name, Breonna Taylor – Ahmaud Arbery, or the countless other men and women who died or were senselessly injured.  But it will make a tremendous – take a tremendous step toward – or to stop the violence, stem the suffering and start to build a healthier, better relationship between law enforcement and communities that they respect.

All of us here salute and are proudly, profoundly grateful to our law enforcement heroes.  I grew up in a family, public service family.  My father, my whole life at home, was Mayor of Baltimore.  My brother was Mayor later, Thomas D’Alesandro, in Baltimore.  And they had a motto about the police:  ‘Be true to the men in blue.’  Of course this was a long time ago and they were all men.  ‘Be true to the men in blue.’  So, I was I was raised with that respect, with the – prayerfully that these people, our men and women, now, men and women in uniform, whether they're police or fire, but addressing police here, our first responders left home when they left to go to work, not knowing – their families not knowing if they would return home because they were risking their lives to save lives and to protect all of us. 

So, it’s with great, prayerful gratitude to most of the men and women in blue, that we sadly have to say that our appreciation for them cannot lapse into apathy or acceptance of actions that are fundamentally incompatible with the purpose of policing, the purpose of policing. 

Of course, we all – there's not anyone on our side of the aisle who has advocated any policy in this body to defund the police, contrary to misrepresentations that are coming forth.  All of us here, again, salute and profoundly grateful for our law enforcement heroes. 

As the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives writes, ‘The passage of this act is paramount in achieving the fundamental principle of a police force that protects and serves every citizen of their community with fairness, accountability and transparency in their actions.’ 

The Democratic Congress, together with the Biden-Harris Administration, is committed to not only ensuring that this legislation becomes law, but to take further action to end violence and advance justice in America.  Let us ensure that the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is the first of many steps in this direction. 

To the family of George Floyd that came here when the bill was being reviewed by your committee, Mr. Chairman – you remember that day.  We couldn't be in your committee room because of COVID, but they came and they asked me that day, they said, ‘Madam Speaker, will you name this bill for our brother?’  Philonise, his brother, asked that question.  I said, ‘Only if you think it is worthy of your brother.’

I think of George Floyd at least once a day – sometimes more.  And you know why?  Not just because of the sadness of it all, but I think of him because they tell us that in order to be safe from COVID, we must wash our hands for 20 seconds.  As I'm washing my hands for 20 seconds, after about eight or nine seconds, I'm thinking ‘This is taking forever.  I can't do this for 20 seconds.  It takes too long.’

And then I think of George Floyd.  Eight minutes and 46 seconds.  That's a long time.  It's a long time, as Congresswoman Dean said, calling out for his mother, extending love to his family. 

OK.  Let us ensure that George's brother, Philonise, when he said, ‘George's name means something,’ and that, as his daughter, Gianna, said, ‘Daddy changed the world’ with this legislation.  Let us take an important step in changing the world for George's family, for all communities of color, for all Americans, for the whole world. 

With that, Madam Speaker, I urge a strong, bipartisan vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.  I thank Karen Bass again, Madam Chair.  Thank you so much, again.  And I yield back the balance of my time.