Congressional Democrats–including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer–kneeled for nearly nine minutes while wearing African kente cloth scarves to honor George Floyd and other Black Americans killed by police officers. They joined by nearly a dozen other Democratic lawmakers who were also wearing kente scarves, which is a fabric often worn by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Washington Times noted.
“Kente” became one of the top-trending Twitter terms on Monday. It caused some backlash as some netizens discussed if the act was disingenuous or an appropriation of African culture. Others said the move was “out of touch.”
House and Senate Democrats kneel for an 8 minute and 46 second moment of silence for George Floyd. pic.twitter.com/so3S7eBtna
— Sarah Reese Jones (@PoliticusSarah) June 8, 2020
“We are here to honor George Floyd,” Pelosi said, as noted by The Hill. After nearly nine minutes, the lawmaker stood up and said, “You see how long it was to have that knee on his neck.”
“To every one of us, it was excruciating. It seemed an unbearably long amount of time. It felt so painful to get even an inkling of how this man and so many black Americans have suffered for so long,” Schumer added.
I know we are in unexpected times and anything is possible but listen man I did not have “Pelosi in Kente cloth” on the bingo card
— Hanif Abdurraqib (@NifMuhammad) June 8, 2020
The Bill Was Introduced After Nearly Two Weeks of Protests Following Floyd’s Death
There have been nearly two weeks of nationwide protests as activists marched against police brutality toward Black Americans sparked by Floyd’s death, who was unarmed when he was killed by now-former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin was fired and originally charged with third-degree murder, though it was upgraded to second-degree murder by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.
The three other officers involved in the incident—Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao—were arrested and charged with abetting murder and aiding and abetting manslaughter.
Those marching for justice represent the best of America:
Protesting peacefully. Speaking truth to power.
We knelt together for 8 minutes, 46 seconds. The time George Floyd spent struggling to breathe in his last moments. An unconscionable eternity.
Black Lives Matter. pic.twitter.com/KpghGILGLT
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) June 8, 2020
In response to the unrest, Democrats introduced a bill on Monday to combat police violence and racial injustice, Politico reported.
“The world is witnessing the birth of a new movement in our country,” Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass said on Monday, as noted by Politico. “A profession where you have the power to kill should be a profession where you have highly trained officers accountable to the public.”
The bill, which is 134 pages, would ban chokeholds, require police officers to wear body cameras, restrict the use of lethal force and allow victims of police misconduct to sue for damages, Reuters reported. It would also allow for independent investigations to be held at police departments that show patterns of misconduct and create a database to follow police misconduct.
“We have confused having safe communities with hiring more cops on the street … when in fact the real way to achieve safe and healthy communities is to invest in these communities,” said Senator Kamala Harris, a potential running mate for 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden. “We’re here because black Americans want to stop being killed.”
Minneapolis Has Already Banned the Use of Any Type of Chokehold by Police
Regardless of rank, officers in the Minneapolis police department are not allowed to use any type of chokehold. The ban was made after Rebecca Lucero, the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, filed a charge of discrimination against the City of Minneapolis Police Department and the City of Minneapolis. She alleged there was “discrimination in public services based on race.”