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D.C. Memo: George Floyd’s brother asks Congress for change

George Floyd’s brother testifies; a conversation with Rep. Ilhan Omar; and a look at the disaster in D.C. that wasn’t.

photo of philonise floyd testifying
Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd testified during the opening statements at a House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
REUTERS/Pool/Graeme Jennings

Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo. This week from Washington, George Floyd’s brother testifies, a conversation with Rep. Ilhan Omar, and a look at the disaster in D.C. that wasn’t.

The House Judiciary Committee on police brutality

The day after he buried his brother in his hometown, George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee. 

“I am here to ask you to make it stop. Stop the pain. Stop us from being tired,” Philonise Floyd said. “George called for help, and he was ignored.”

Throughout the hearing, committee members gave their thoughts on the situation in Minneapolis, with Ranking Republican Jim Jordan saying defunding the police in any way is “absolute insanity.” The House plans to bring some police accountability legislation to the floor later this month.

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A conversation with Rep. Ilhan Omar

On Monday, I talked to Rep. Ilhan Omar about her district, where Floyd was killed by police last month. In a wide ranging conversation, we discussed her conception of what dismantling the police looks like, what her background as an organizer has taught her about this moment, and whether or not police unions have a role in the union movement.

You can read more at MinnPost, but I’ll leave a bit of Omar’s words below:

We’ve all seen the protesters who were against the shutdown for the pandemic. And there was a lot of time not spent on the way in which they were protesting. But a lot of time was spent on whether the cause they were protesting against was justified or not. And when it comes to the protesters and the demonstrators out today, the conversation really is on how they’re protesting and how they’re demonstrating, and not so much on whether their cause is justified.

What happens is that you take the focus off the actual problem that has made people come out to demonstrate because they want their voices to be heard. They want the problem that they are speaking about to be talked about.

The D.C. disaster that wasn’t

The New York Times this week has a story on the members of the National Guard, many of them people of color, who are unwilling to tell their families they were part of the crackdown on protesters. But the story buries a big detail: if protestors in Washington D.C. responded with violence, the National Guard was prepared to use live rounds on American citizens:

Along with the troops, National Guard units from other states brought weapons and ammunition. Tens of thousands of rifle and pistol rounds were stored in the D.C. Armory and partitioned in pallets, labeled by their state of origin, to be used on American citizens in case of emergency.

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Wesley Lowery on ‘Why Minneapolis Was the Breaking Point’

Wesley Lowery is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author of “They Can’t Kill us All.” Lowery, who covered the Ferugson protests in 2014 and helped build one of the country’s most expansive databases on police violence, writes in The Atlantic this week on how Minneapolis became the focal point for change. The whole piece is worth a read, but I’ve picked out a few choice paragraphs for the newsletter:

The following January, the most powerful newspaper in America endorsed the presidential campaign of Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who in eight years as a county prosecutor had never once brought charges against a police officer for misconduct. After losing, Klobuchar offered herself up as a potential running mate for Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee.

That she’d even be considered for either post—despite new reporting that suggests she put an innocent black teenager behind bars for life—underscored how unseriously much of mainstream politics still seemed to be taking the movement. In the years since Ferguson, the Minneapolis activists had helped elect progressive-reform types to both of the Twin Cities’ governments, and secured significant new police-oversight and accountability measures. But the pace of change remained infuriatingly slow.

By the numbers

  • 50-a: The New York State Senate passed a bill that would repeal a law (50-a) that prevents police officers’ disciplinary records from being disclosed. Here’s a primer on the law. 
  • $15,000: Sen. Klobuchar has taken more money from police unions than every senator except for Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, according to Business Insider. 
  • 44,000,000: Roughly the number of people who have sought unemployment coverage in the last twelve weeks.

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In the Fifth

Antone Melton-Meaux, who is facing off with Rep. Omar for her seat in Minnesota’s Fifth District, is in favor of disbanding the Minneapolis Police Department. But in 2015, had he run, you might have seen a different candidate. In a Star Tribune op-ed, Melton-Meaux argued that Black Lives Matter protesters had gone too far with an anti-police chant. He said the real focus ought to be on broader problems within the black community.

Aída Chávez, at The Intercept, has the story on Melton-Meaux’s history and the primary fight here.

(Patrick Condon at The Strib has a story on Melton-Meaux from last month that’s worth a read as well: Democratic challenge materializes to Rep. Ilhan Omar).

In other news

Quote of the week

“My Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations,” President Donald Trump tweeted on Wednesday, after Pentagon officials expressed a willingness to rename bases named after Confederate generals.

What I’m reading

Garrett Felber for The Boston Review: The Struggle to Abolish the Police Is Not New

A lot of stories in the last two weeks have framed the concept of police abolition or defunding as new. It’s certainly not: there is a rich history of academics, primarily black feminists, arguing for abolition. This piece breaks it down.

That’s all for this week. Thanks for sticking around. Until next week, feel free to send tips, suggestions, and sound advice to: gschneider@minnpost.com. Follow at @gabemschneider. And don’t forget to become a MinnPost member.