Families Of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery And Breonna Taylor Seek Congressional Hearing: 'This Is A National Crisis'
The families plan to address the United Nation Human Rights Committee.
May 29, 2020 at 1:14 pm
While protests against police brutality continue to escalate around the country, the people who have recently lost loved ones are formulating a plan to combat the ongoing issue.
In a statement to Blavity, the families of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd announced their call to action. As part of their effort to end violence against Black people and hold police accountable for their actions, the families announced that they are looking to present bipartisan legislation at a congressional hearing.
“We’re devastated about the senseless violence that has broken the hearts of our families,” the families said in a joint statement. “While we are grateful for the outpouring of love and support, it’s important that now — more than ever — we use our voices to enact change, demand accountability within our justice system and keep the legacies of Breonna, Ahmaud and George alive. This is a national crisis and our government needs to take immediate and widespread action to protect our Black and brown communities.”
In addition to seeking a congressional hearing, the families plan to address the United Nation Human Rights Committee, demanding sweeping changes to the country's criminal justice system. And there's still more coming from the families as they declare a state of emergency and plan national sanctions such as boycotts, travel embargoes and corporate withdrawal in the areas where they lost their loved ones.
Arbery was gunned down by a white former police officer and his son in Brunswick, Georgia, in February, as Blavity previously reported. Breonna Taylor, 26, was shot and killed by police in Kentucky while sleeping in her apartment with her boyfriend in March. George Floyd, 46, was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who pressed his knee into the neck of the unarmed Black man for several minutes.
Attorneys S. Lee Merritt and Ben Crump, who are representing the families, spoke at a press conference on Friday with CNN's Van Jones.
"We are asking grassroots organizers and community members from all over the country to come together in a task force as we begin to map out our own solutions," Merritt said. "We will be asking for economic boycotts and sanctions in these communities where these atrocities continue to occur."
Merritt said he tries his best to communicate the energy and message the families are trying to get out into the world.
"It's not about myself or Benjamin Crump or the many grassroots organizations that have gotten behind the cause for justice," Merritt said. "But the experience of heartbroken families."
In the case of Arbery, Merritt said there were no arrests made for almost three months after he was killed in February. The attorney added that Arbery's mother was told that her son was killed by a homeowner during a burglary.
"She rejected that claim and worked tirelessly to expose what really happened to her son," Merritt said.
For the families of so many victims, Merritt said the system has been "incompetent or unwilling to provide justice."
"We need a national response," he said. "We can no longer do this on a case-by-case basis. We cannot call and demand for the community to focus on one incident of injustice when we know there are over, on average, a thousand police shootings a year."
Crump said, "it is open season on our children and our loved ones by the people who are supposed to protect and serve us."
In discussing the details in Taylor's case, Crump said her boyfriend's expressions heard in the 911 call were "heartbreaking."
"Just when you thought these cases couldn't be any more heartbreaking, you hear the 911 call where he is saying 'stay with me Breonna, stay with me Bri' as he's looking at her body riddled with bullets," Crump said.
According to CBS News, Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, told a 911 operator that "somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend."
When the 911 responder asked where Taylor had been shot, Walker said, "I don't know, she is on the ground right now. I don't know, I don't know."
In the case of Arbery, Crump called it "a modern-day lynching."
"They did not arrest his killers for 10 weeks," Crump said. "There had to be great public outcry and a video that we saw to finally make them arrest his murderers."
Regarding the most recent killing, Crump said "George Floyd who was just trying to breathe while Black."
"He asked like Eric Garner, 'let me breathe.' … He said it over and over again," Crump said.
The attorney added that the police didn't even show any humanity when bystanders were pleading with them to show mercy.
"There was a woman who purported to be an EMT of sorts who said 'just let me take his pulse because y'all are killing him,'" Crump said. "She asked that over 15 times."
In a time where the coronavirus has taken a disproportionate toll on the Black community, Crump said the ongoing cases of police brutality are also a national pandemic.
"If we don't address this in the next month or two, we will see another unjustifiable, unnecessary, senseless killing of another unarmed, non-threatening African American at the hands of people who are police or pretend to be police," Crump said.
While the current discussions focus on high-profile cases, the attorneys said there are many more cases that aren't publicized nationally.
"There are dozens of calls that we get that never get covered by the news," Crump said. "They need a response too."
Merritt said the focus of the family's legislation is on accountability because less than 1% of the cases involving police brutality are indicted. In the case of Floyd, Merritt said the district attorney in Minnesota said there isn't yet enough evidence to indict.
"I don't know what kind of evidence he is expecting when you have the video of George Floyd being murdered," Merritt said.
He added that there is a need for better training because police officers "are, in fact, trained to kill."
Crump urged the public to imagine trying to breathe while carrying another's person knee on the neck for eight minutes as Floyd did.
"That is the tragic last minutes of George Floyd's life," Crump said. "It is tragic. But, more importantly for the society in general, who are looking to see if there is equal justice in America, it is murder."