'Help us — black people in America,' Philonise Floyd told a Human Rights Council debating whether to create a commission to investigate racism

By Jeff Truesdell
June 18, 2020 11:33 AM
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Philonise Floyd addresses the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on June 17.
MARTIAL TREZZINI/POOL/AFP via Getty

George Floyd's brother delivered an emotional speech to the United Nations on Wednesday about police brutality and racism.

"The way you saw my brother tortured and murdered on camera is the way black people are treated by police in America," Philonise Floyd said in videotaped remarks to the U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva. "You watched my brother die."

"That could have been me," he said. "I am my brother's keeper. You in the United Nations are your brothers' and sisters' keepers in America, and you have the power to help us get justice for my brother George Floyd. I am asking you to help him.  I am asking you to help me. I am asking you to help us -- black people in America."

His remarks were delivered in a council debate encouraged by the body's African Group of Nations, which put forth a resolution seeking an international commission to investigate racism and policing in America, including violence against protesters who've marched in Floyd's name.

The session unfolded without formal participation from the U.S. After accusing council members of hypocrisy and bias, the Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from the council two years ago, reports The New York Times.

But in a statement before the council convened, Andrew Bremberg, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, said any resulting resolution “that calls out countries by name should be inclusive, noting the many countries where racism is a problem.”

Philonise Floyd marching with protesters in Washington, D.C., on June 10.
LUIS MAGANA/AFP via Getty

“We are not above scrutiny,” said Bremberg, who added the U.S. already has acknowledged and is working to address its failings, according to the Times.

Floyd's May 25 detention and death in Minneapolis were caught on camera, with viral footage of officer Derek Chauvin holding his knee firmly on the back of Floyd's neck sparking ongoing worldwide protest.

The unarmed Floyd, 46, who was held for allegedly spending a fake $20 bill, is heard in the video telling officers he can't breathe, while bystanders plead with Chauvin to let up. Throughout the nine-minute clip, Floyd repeatedly asks for help, and finally calls out to his mother. The video continued until Floyd was visibly still.

George Floyd
Ben Crump Law Firm

Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder, second-degree unintentional murder, and manslaughter. Three other officers present at the time of Floyd's death — Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng — were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second degree manslaughter. None of the officers has yet entered a plea.

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Even after he was “unconscious, stopped moving and stopped breathing, the officer kept his knee on my brother’s neck for another four minutes as many witnesses kept begging the officer to take his knee off of my brother’s neck and save his life," Philonise Floyd told the council, in prepared remarks obtained by PEOPLE.

"The officers showed no mercy, no humanity and tortured my brother to death in the middle of the street in Minneapolis with a crowd of witnesses watching and begging them to stop, showing us black people the same lesson yet again: black lives do not matter in the United States of America,” he said.

Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the council as it began its debate ahead of Floyd's comments, “Time is of the essence. Patience has run out,” reports U.N. News. “Black lives matter. Indigenous lives matter. The lives of people of color matter. All human beings are born equal in dignity and rights and that is what this Council, like my office, stands for.”

She urged reforms across the world in law enforcement and other institutions to counter what she called the “pervasive racism that corrodes institutions of government, entrenches inequality and underlies so many violations of human rights."

More than 600 human rights rights groups had pushed for an investigation into alleged police violence after Floyd's death, with a council vote on how and whether to proceed expected as soon as this week.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.