Pelosi Remarks at Press Conference on House Passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined House Democratic leaders for a press conference on the House passage of H.R. 1280, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Madam Chair. Karen Bass has been a relentless champion for justice in America.
She saw the challenge that we are facing and she said there has to be justice in policing. She put together the legislation, working together with members of the Judiciary Committee, on which she serves, working with the distinguished – she doesn’t serve. She does serve. Yes, she serves on so many – she’s so many chairs of so many things, the Foreign Affairs Committee, but working with the distinguished Chair, Mr. Nadler, whom I will be pleased to yield to in just a moment. But not before acknowledging, as Karen Bass did, a certain landmark date.
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 that exists in our country. ‘I can't breathe.’ Since then, Americans from every corner of the country and, actually, people throughout the world have taken to the streets to peacefully protest violence against Black Americans. Yet, despite these protests, violence continues.
We cannot accept this epidemic of injustice, which is why we will pass and send – well, we have passed now, we have passed – and send to the Senate and to President – the President, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, so it can become the law of the land.
We’re proud of this legislation, which will fundamentally transform the culture with bold, unprecedented reforms, some of which the distinguished Chair Karen Bass mentioned. It will not erase centuries of systemic racism and excessive policing. And it will not bring back George Floyd, Breonna Taylor – say her name, Breonna Taylor – Ahmaud Arbery or the countless others who have been killed or harmed. But it will take a tremendous step forward to stop the violence, stem the suffering and start to build a better America.
We all have respect for our men and women in blue, who serve our country, protecting all of us. I said on the Floor, many of them leave home to risked their lives to save lives, to protect, to provide protection in our community. Overwhelmingly, they are not part of this culture of violence against African Americans. But nonetheless, our respect for them cannot turn into apathy against what we know is happening and that must be stopped. It must be stopped.
Our colleague, Madeleine Dean, when she was on the Floor, she talked about ‘I can't breathe’ and how George Floyd called out for his mother, mother, his mother. Any mother in the country who heard that had to be so impacted by it.
I said on the Floor that I think of George Floyd all the time, even when I'm not thinking in terms of this injustice. Even when I'm washing my hands – and they say wash your hands for 20 seconds in terms of COVID so that your hands are thoroughly washed. And I think I can't do that for 20 seconds. It's taking too much time. Eight minutes and 46 seconds of intentional knee to the neck, a public lynching, an assassination before our very eyes.
As I said to the family when they asked, ‘Madam Speaker, will you name the bill for George?’ I said, ‘Only if you think the bill is worthy of that.’ And they said it was and they were very pleased that we passed it then, even more pleased when we passed it now because we have a President in the White House who shares our values of liberty and justice for all.
With that, a person committed to liberty and justice for all, and particularly in the form of this legislation, the distinguished Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler of New York.