George Floyd’s family meet Joe Biden on the anniversary of his death

Relative’s of black man killed by police officer call for ‘meaningful’ legislation reform

George Floyd’s family lawyer Ben Crump (third from left) holds up his fist with family members outside the White House as George Floyd’s daughter Gianna Floyd (centre) calls out ‘Say His Name’ as they speak with reporters after meeting with US president Joe Biden in Washington, DC, on May 25th. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty

George Floyd’s family lawyer Ben Crump (third from left) holds up his fist with family members outside the White House as George Floyd’s daughter Gianna Floyd (centre) calls out ‘Say His Name’ as they speak with reporters after meeting with US president Joe Biden in Washington, DC, on May 25th. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty

 

The family of George Floyd called for “meaningful and substantive” legislation to reform policing in America, as they met with US president Joe Biden at the White House on the anniversary of Mr Floyd’s death.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Floyd’s brother Philonise called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

“If you can make federal laws to protect the bird which is the bald eagle, you can make federal laws to protect people of colour,” he said outside the West Wing.

Another brother, Terence, described the meeting as productive, and said that the president had shown genuine concern. But he also urged Congress to act.

A year after Mr Floyd was killed by police officer Derek Chauvin in an incident that was captured on video camera and ricocheted across the world, Congress has yet to pass proposed legislation on police reform. While a version of the Bill has passed the House of Representatives, it has stalled in the Senate where disagreement has emerged over “qualified immunity” – a principle that gives almost blanket protection to police officers, except in the most egregious cases.

‘Genuine relationship’

The Floyd family was due to meet with Democratic Senator Cory Booker and Republican Tim Scott later on Tuesday. The two African-American senators are leading efforts to secure bipartisan agreement on a deal. The White House expressed optimism that a deal would be reached, despite the May 25th deadline set by Mr Biden earlier this year passing without agreement.

Press secretary Jen Psaki said the purpose of Mr Biden’s hour-long meeting with the family was to hear from them directly.

“He has a genuine relationship with them,” she said, noting that he had met them many times before. “He’s eager to listen to their perspectives and hear what they have to say.”

While the deadline set by the White House would not be met, she said that the president “is still very much hopeful that he will be able to sign the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act into law.”

Key negotiators on the package, which would restrict funding to police forces that fail to abide by federal standards and would ban restraint manoeuvres such as those used on Mr Floyd, stressed that it was important to get the legislation right.

“We want to get this deal right and not quick, and I’m very encouraged,” Mr Booker said ahead of his meeting with the Floyd family.

The killing of Mr Floyd by a white police officer who knelt on his neck prompted a national reckoning about race relations in America. The video of his death, which was captured by a passer-by on her cell-phone, went viral and prompted protests across the world about racial inequality.

The anniversary was marked across the country on Tuesday, with demonstrations taking place in Minneapolis, New York and elsewhere.

Putin meeting

Separately, the White House announced that Mr Biden will meet Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Geneva on June 16th. The first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since Mr Biden’s election will take place just after the G7 summit in Cornwall and Nato and EU summits in Brussels. The White House said the leaders “will discuss the full range of pressing issues, as we seek to restore predictability and stability to the US-Russia relationship”. 

Responding to criticism from some Republicans about Mr Biden’s decision to meet with the Russia leader whom he branded a “killer” in an interview in March, Ms Psaki said on Monday that diplomacy was about raising concerns and conveying areas of disagreement.

Among the items on the agenda will be nuclear arms control, Ukraine and Belarus, though she said that the US does not believe at this point that Russia was involved in the forced diversion of the Ryanair plane to Minsk on Sunday.