As many U.S. lawmakers expressed bipartisan support for Tuesday’s guilty verdict in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) would instead bizarrely publicly thanked the man who was killed by Chauvin, George Floyd for “sacrificing” his life by dying on the ground beneath a police officer’s knee all in the name of “justice.”
During a news conference with members of the Congressional Black Caucus following Chauvin’s conviction on three criminal counts of murder and manslaughter charges, Pelosi expressed her gratitude for “justice” from the jury verdict, calling the outcome “a step in the right direction.”
“Thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice, for being there to call out to your mom, how heartbreaking was that, call out for your mom, ‘I can’t breathe.’ But because of you and because of thousands, millions of people around the world who came out for justice, your name will always be synonymous with justice,” Pelosi said Tuesday afternoon outside the Capitol.
However, her remarks quickly drew widespread blowback from both liberal and conservative pundits, many who criticized the House Speaker for “martyring” Floyd, reminding Pelosi that he did not willingly “sacrifice” his life, but rather was horrifically murdered by Chauvin when he pinned his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes last May.
Pelosi quickly sought to clarify her remarks, emphasizing that “George Floyd should be alive today,” and adding, “He did not die in vain.”
“George Floyd should be alive today. His family’s calls for justice for his murder were heard around the world. He did not die in vain. We must make sure other families don’t suffer the same racism, violence & pain, and we must enact the George Floyd #JusticeInPolicing Act,” Pelosi tweeted.
The House last month passed the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,” in a vote of 220-212 — with no Republican voting in support and two Democrats voting against the bill. The Democratic police reform legislation that has no GOP input aims to ban chokeholds and end qualified immunity for police officers, making it easier to pursue claims of police misconduct while personally hold police liable for constitutional violations. The wide-ranging legislation would also end other police practices, such as the use of no-knock warrants, mandating data collection on police encounters, prohibit racial and religious profiling, and redirect funding to community-based policing programs.
The House passed a similar version of the bill last year with a vote of 236-181, a month after Floyd killing, but stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate after Democrats blocked a Republican police reform bill, authored by the GOP lone Black Senator, Tim Scott from South Carolina from reaching the floor for debate on “open amendment” process. Democrats refused to go ahead with the process of a floor debate, or engage in amending it, insisting the Republican bill was not salvageable, despite it had included many Democratic provisions.
Chauvin was convicted Tuesday after less than 12 hours of jury deliberations, almost one year since the incident that sparked global protests against police brutality. The jury found the former police officer guilty on all three counts: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
During her five-minute remarks, Pelosi expressed hope that the verdict will pave the momentum for the enactment of the Democrat police reform bill in the Senate.
“Our responsibility is to make sure that Rep. Karen Bass who has been so open to justice with a bill that she put together, she wrote, and now trying to find areas of agreement in the Senate. Because unless we can change the law, this will be an episode. We change the law, we’re going down a different path, all together,” Pelosi said.
This isn’t the first time Pelosi has received backlash in using the tribute dedicated to Floyd into a political prop, doing so a year ago when she and other congressional Democrats wore stoles made of Kente cloth, a traditional African textile in unveiling the police reform legislation in the name of Floyd.