George Floyd should not be just ‘another face on a T-shirt’, says brother

US Wrap: Philonise Floyd calls for action on police reform at bipartisan hearing

George Floyd, whose death at the hands of white police officers sparked protests across the United States, should not become just "another face on a T-shirt", his brother said on Wednesday as he urged Congress to take action on police reform.

Speaking at a hearing on police brutality and racial profiling on Capitol Hill, Philonise Floyd said people of “all backgrounds, genders and race have come together to demand change” following the death of his brother.

“Honour them, honour George, and make the necessary changes that make law enforcement the solution – and not the problem,” he told members of the House of Representatives judiciary committee.

“I can’t tell you the kind of pain you feel . . . when you watch your big brother, who you’ve looked up to your whole life, die. Die begging for your mom,” he said. “I’m tired. I’m tired of the pain I’m feeling now and I’m tired of the pain I feel every time another black person is killed for no reason. I’m here today to ask you to make it stop. Stop the pain. Stop us from being tired.”


Mr Floyd addressed the bipartisan hearing a day after his brother was buried in Houston, Texas, following his death on May 25th when he was restrained by a police officer in Minneapolis who pressed his knee on his neck for almost nine minutes.

Mr Floyd’s plea while he was held down – “I can’t breathe” – have become a rallying cry for anti-racist protests across the United States and around the world.

The hearing on Capitol Hill took place as lawmakers across the political divide consider legislative action on police reform amid widespread public anger about the death of Mr Floyd and the issue of institutional racism within the police force.

Legislative action

While congressional Democrats unveiled a proposal on police reform on Monday, Republicans are said to be working on their own plan and are open to some legislative action on the issue. During Wednesday's hearing, Republican Doug Collins from Georgia said he accepted the need for reform, but questioned some of the "micro-managing" contained in the Democratic proposal, particularly the suggestion to abolish "qualified immunity", a legal concept that affords protection to police officers.

There were reports that US president Donald Trump could be weighing up some kind of executive order on police reform.

Mr Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, have travelled to Capitol Hill in recent days for discussions with Republicans on possible federal measures.

While Mr Trump has been quick to seize on some calls from activists to defund police services, polls show that most of the public favour some kind of police reform.

Mr Trump was strongly criticised on Tuesday for suggesting that an incident involving a 75-year-old protester in Buffalo, who was shoved by police and fell, could have been staged. The man remains in hospital and two police officers have been charged with assault.

Campaign rallies

Amid reports that Mr Trump could begin holding campaign rallies as early as this month, despite the threat of coronavirus, the president will fly to Dallas on Thursday, where he will meet with faith leaders ahead of a fundraiser.

Separately, more than 1,250 former justice department employees have called for an internal watchdog to investigate attorney general William Barr's decision to clear Lafayette Square in front of the White House of demonstrators shortly before Mr Trump crossed the square to pose with a Bible outside St John's Church.

In a letter to justice department inspector-general Michael Horowitz, the group said it was "deeply concerned about the department's actions, and those of attorney general William Barr himself, in response to the nationwide lawful gatherings to protest the systemic racism that has plagued this country throughout its history".

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent