The family of George Floyd on the first anniversary of his murder by a White police officer met President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and top legislators in the Congress to push for passage of police reform legislation stalled by Senate.
Handcuffed and lying face down in the street, Floyd was killed in Minneapolis on May 25 last year when one of the officers put the weight of his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.
President Biden and Ms Harris, America’s first female and first Black vice president, hosted several of Floyd’s relatives in the Oval Office after the family spoke to top lawmakers hoping for progress on police reform.
The legislation being considered to increase police accountability would be named after Floyd.
“If you can make federal laws to protect the bird, the bald eagle, you can make federal laws to protect people of colour,” Philonise Floyd, George’s younger brother, said as he emerged from the private meeting, which lasted over an hour.
Another brother, Terrence Floyd, said as he left the White House that he was encouraged by the “productive conversation” in which Biden and Harris were eager to “actually give an ear to our concerns.”
Floyd’s mother, siblings and his daughter Gianna, along with family lawyers, had earlier gathered at the US Capitol with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic members of Congress.
While the adults discussed their hopes for police reform, it was seven-year-old Gianna – hugging her mother Roxie Washington – who eloquently addressed the lasting legacy of her late father, saying he would “change the world.”
“He did,” Biden said in a statement after meeting the family nearly a year after their first encounter ahead of Floyd´s funeral.
“The Floyd family has shown extraordinary courage, especially his young daughter Gianna, who I met again today,” Biden added.
He told reporters he was “hopeful” that a deal could be struck on the police reforms after the Memorial Day holiday this weekend.
“I got a chance to spend a lot of time with Gianna and the family,” he said. “They’ve been wonderful.”
THE REFORM: Floyd’s death sparked protests against racial injustice and police brutality across a country already crackling with tension from the election battle between Biden and Donald Trump.
Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as he passed out and died, is to be sentenced in June for murder and manslaughter.
In the wake of Chauvin’s conviction last month, Biden sought to build on political momentum by urging Congress to pass a far-reaching police reform bill in time for the anniversary.
However, the ambitious deadline comes with only the House having passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, while the Senate continues to wrangle over key details.
Despite missing Biden’s hoped-for deadline, Representative Karen Bass, a co-author of the reform bill, reiterated her commitment to Democrats and Republicans negotiating a compromise.
“We will get this bill on President Biden’s desk,” she said at the meeting with the Floyd family. “We will work until we get the job done. It will be passed in a bipartisan manner.”
The proposed law seeks to reform what critics say have become ever more violent and unaccountable police forces around the country.
Biden says a culture of impunity and underlying racism has made tragedies like Floyd’s death increasingly common, although opponents believe police operating in often heavily armed communities are being scapegoated.
As if to highlight the staggering number of US shootings, multiple gunshots rang out Tuesday near the site in Minneapolis where people were marking the anniversary of Floyd’s killing.
Shortly afterward a patient arrived at hospital suffering from a gunshot wound, police said.