In Speech on Senate Floor, Cantwell Speaks About George Floyd, Calls for Federal Government to Protect Civil Rights, Pass Needed Policing Reforms

Cantwell: George Floyd’s family “should not be preparing for his funeral today”; Senator calls for specific reforms, including a prohibition on chokeholds and knee restraints, clear federal standards on use of deadly force, greater role from USDOJ, federal government in police oversight + protecting civil rights

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a speech on the Senate floor today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) spoke about the death of George Floyd and called for the Senate to pass federal policing reforms.

“I come to the floor today after my colleagues have held a moment of silence for the passing of George Floyd. His family should not be preparing for his funeral today,” Cantwell said. “It is time that we not just speak out about injustice; it’s time that we pass new federal laws to protect the civil liberties of United States citizens and protect them from these injustices.”

Cantwell highlighted the steps Trump administration officials have taken to roll back important policing reforms put into place by the Obama administration and called for Attorney General Bill Barr and other Trump administration officials to take their duty to perform federal oversight of police seriously. Specifically, she demanded that Barr and the leadership of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division vigorously step in to end systemic abuse of civil and constitutional rights.

In calling for congressional action, Cantwell pointed to ongoing protests in cities throughout Washington state and around the country:

“What the citizenry of the United States of America is telling us is we need better laws on the books. I believe we need to act here. The death of George Floyd has shown us that there is a clarion call and a need for more federal action.

Specific reforms Cantwell called for in her speech include:

  • A prohibition on chokeholds and knee restraints;
  • Federal support for de-escalation training;
  • Federal standards for the use of body cameras and the preservation of videos;
  • Independent investigations and prosecutions of police use of deadly force;
  • Federal support and accountability for community policing;
  • Stronger oversight and requirements on the Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General to vigorously identify and end pattern and practices of abuse in police departments, and seek penalties for those who haven’t; and,
  • Clear federal standards on the use of deadly force.

“I ask my colleagues, let’s put our differences aside to get real action on these,” Cantwell concluded. “There is a federal role in civil rights enforcement. Let’s take that role seriously, let’s respond to the death and do something about it. I know that the best way to honor George Floyd today would be to help pass the laws that help protect the citizenry… We are a great country, and we can do better by meeting this challenge.”

Video of Senator Cantwell’s floor speech is available HERE, and audio is available HERE