President Biden on Tuesday met for an hour with the family of George Floyd, including his seven-year-old daughter Gianna, to mark the first anniversary of his death.
Floyd’s daughter led a protest chant of “Say his name” afterward on the White House driveway, as a group of adults raised their fists and responded, “George Floyd!”
Family attorney Justin Miller expressed frustration after the meeting about the pace of a federal police reform bill that’s the subject of bipartisan negotiations, noting that Biden just signed a bill intended to address hate crimes against Asians.
“There have been other bills that have been passed in the last three months protecting different groups of people. This group of people needs to be protected too and this started a long time ago. There are some things that started a lot sooner that got protected a lot faster,” Miller said.
Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd went further, invoking the Endangered Species 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 color,” he said.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted in April of murdering Floyd by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes after Floyd allegedly tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill.
Floyd’s death triggered nationwide protests and riots, including in Washington outside the White House. Public access to Lafayette Park and a three-block stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue north of the White House was only restored this month.
Family attorney Chris Stewart said that Biden, who often speaks of Floyd’s daughter, “actually interacted and played with Gianna. She had an absolute ball.”
“This may be a sad day across the country, but this was a super happy day seeing her smile like she’s still smiling,” he said.
Biden, who on Tuesday also announced plans to visit Tulsa, Okla., on June 1 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of an anti-black race riot, did not speak publicly after meeting with Floyd’s family.
Biden said in a written statement that Floyd’s death “launched a summer of protest we hadn’t seen since the Civil Rights era in the ‘60s – protests that peacefully unified people of every race and generation to collectively say enough of the senseless killings.”
“Last month’s conviction of the police officer who murdered George was another important step forward toward justice. But our progress can’t stop there,” Biden said.
“To deliver real change, we must have accountability when law enforcement officers violate their oaths, and we need to build lasting trust between the vast majority of the men and women who wear the badge honorably and the communities they are sworn to serve and protect.”
Republican negotiators led by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Democrats led by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) have expressed optimism amid negotiations that followed a nearly year-long blame game for inaction on Capitol Hill.
Last year, the Democratic-held House passed a reform bill, but a Democratic minority in the Senate blocked consideration of a less-drastic bill drafted by Scott, who is the only black Republican in the Senate.
The Democratic bill would restrict chokeholds and ban federal agents from conducting no-knock drug raids. It would curtail transfers of military equipment to police, create an officer misconduct registry, end qualified immunity from lawsuits and lower the threshold to federally prosecute officers if they show “reckless disregard” for someone’s life.
The Senate Republican bill would incentivize departments to restrict chokeholds, purchase and use body-worn cameras and keep information on use-of-force incidents and no-knock raids. It would make lynching a federal crime, create a commission to study conditions of black men and boys and fund black police officer recruitment.