Philonise Floyd is a key witness in a hearing on police this week, in the wake of George's killing last month and the ensuing unrest across the nation

By Sean Neumann
June 10, 2020 05:22 PM
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Philonise Floyd testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
GREG NASH/POOL/AFP via Getty

have sIn emotional testimony before Congress on Wednesday morning, Philonise Floyd told members of the House Judiciary Committee that his older brother George Floyd, who was killed in Minneapolis after being pinned under a police officer's knee, "called for help and he was ignored."

Now, Philonise is asking lawmakers to listen to the growing calls for sweeping police reform across the United States.

Philonise is a key witness in the House committee's hearing this week on police and misconduct, in the wake of George's killing last month and the ensuing unrest that swept the nation in response to racial injustice.

House Republicans are calling three witnesses, including the sister of a federal officer, Patrick Underwood, shot near a protest sparked by Floyd's death. Angela Underwood Jacobs also spoke before the committee on Wednesday.

“How my brother died was wrong, and I’m praying that we learn something about how he lived,” Jacobs reportedly said. “When our mother fell to the ground as she was dying, he picked her lifeless body up as her spirit was leaving to place her upon her bed, because that’s where she wanted to die. My question is: Who will pick up Patrick and carry his legacy?”

"Please listen to the call I'm making to you now, to the calls of our family, and the calls ringing out in the streets across the world," Philonise told the members of Congress, one day after burying his brother in Houston, their hometown.

Near the end of his five-minute testimony, Philonise held back tears when he said George "changed the world" and told lawmakers he was "robbed" of the chance to say goodbye.

George was killed on May 25 after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on George's neck for nearly nine minutes while other officers held George's body down.

George was recorded saying repeatedly that he couldn't breathe, then he fell still with Chauvin still kneeling on him.

Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter; three other officers at the scene have also been charged with second-degree manslaughter and aiding and abetting a second-degree murder.

None of the four have entered pleas.

On Wednesday, Philonise told lawmakers to "make it stop."

"I'm tired. I'm tired of pain. Pain you feel when you watch something like that. When you watch your big brother, who you looked up for your whole life, die begging for his mom," he said. "I'm here today to ask you to make it stop. Stop the pain. Stop us from being tired."

Philonise said "people of all backgrounds, genders and races have come together to demand change" across the country — drawing some support from police and some fierce backlash from others — before asking the House Judiciary members to "make the necessary changes that make law enforcement the solution."

"Hold them accountable when they do something wrong," he said. "Teach them what it means to treat people with empathy and respect. Teach them what necessary force is. Teach them that deadly force should be used rarely and only when life is at risk."

Philonise Floyd (center), the younger brother of George Floyd, testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/POOL/AFP via Getty
Philonise Floyd, the younger brother of George Floyd, asks lawmakers to "make it stop" on Wednesday, following his brother's death on May 25.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/POOL/AFP via Getty

House Democrats unveiled proposals Monday for immediate police reforms, including banning chokeholds and so-called "no knock" warrants in drug-related cases. Senate Republicans have signaled they will work on their own proposals.

The two reforms in the Democrats' new “Justice in Policing Act" respond directly to George's killing and another recent high-profile case in Louisville, Kentucky, where Breonna Taylor was killed by police in March after officers investigating a drug case entered her home — without knocking or identifying themselves, her family says — and shot her eight times. (The suspected dealer did not live there.)

"America has a serious and deadly problem when it comes to the discriminatory and excessive policing of communities of color — and that policing exists within a system that time and again refuses to hold police accountable for their brutality," New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said in a statement on Monday, upon introducing the legislation with House colleagues. "For too long, this has been accepted as a cruel reality of being black in this country."

Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney representing the Floyd family, asked the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to take a breath — "the breath that George was denied" — and consider a number of police reforms that he said would boost transparency and accountability, including making it mandatory that officers' body cameras always remain on, ensuring that officers only use force when absolutely necessary and making sure officers face "public consequences for unjustly taking a life or for brutalizing a fellow American that they are sworn to protect and serve."

Philonise said George wasn't hurting anyone when he was detained and held down before he died. The responding officers suspected he'd used a counterfeit bill at a store.

"He didn't deserve to die over $20," Philonise told lawmakers. "I am asking you, is that what a black man's worth? $20? This is 2020. Enough is enough. The people marching in the streets are telling you enough is enough. Be the leaders that this country, this world, needs the right thing."

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

Campaign Zero 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 provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.