Does the George Floyd Act Go Far Enough?

While the reforms included in the new House-approved George Floyd Act seem like good measures, they are woefully insufficient to stop police violence and would not have actually saved George Floyd’s life, claims Derecka Purnell in an op-ed for The Guardian. Among many reforms, the act seeks to ban racial profiling, overhaul qualified immunity for police and ban the use of chokeholds. Purnell points out that Floyd did not die from a chokehold, but instead from “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression,” according to a medical examiner’s autopsy report, while also sustaining blunt force trauma to his head, face and shoulders. Purnell says that the problem with policing is that the officers can kill people using a diverse number of tactics and Congress only banned one of them, and not even the one responsible for the homicide. In addition, while police can show up and stop a supposed crime, in this case being Floyd’s use of a counterfeit $20 bill, they can do nothing against the conditions that caused it and which indicate the real issue: class exploitation and poverty.

By the time of Floyd’s death, lawmakers had only distributed $1,200 in COVID relief to a small number of the total U.S. population that needed it. Would Floyd have used a counterfeit $20 if Congress had issued $2,000 a month to the public as several activists and progressive legislators have been demanding? Meanwhile, The George Floyd Act gives millions of dollars to police in grants, giving the police more money right after they failed to secure a $15 federal minimum wage and failed to deliver on the $2,000 checks they promised to voters who put Democrats in office. The bill also includes $750 million in the George Floyd Act to investigate the deadly use of force by law enforcement, ignoring the demands of a public shouting for defunding of the police who are the reason for the violence that kills people. Purnell insists that lawmakers should instead listen to the largest network of Black-led organizations, the Movement for Black Lives, who have been demanding that lawmakers pass the Breathe Act, which invests resources in all communities to alleviate police violence by building sustainable neighborhoods and reducing contact with law enforcement. The Act calls for investments in gainful employment, quality housing and pilots for universal basic income.

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