The killing of George Floyd in police custody and subsequent nationwide unrest should be a catalyst for lawmakers to unify and fight for more than just incremental change, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNBC on Thursday.
“We can talk about what happened, when and what and all that, but there’s been something very — a pattern of bad behavior, in terms of how people are treated unfairly in our country,” she told Jim Cramer in an interview on “Mad Money.” “Let’s take this moment to be an inflection point, a pivotal one, that we are going to not just proceed incrementally but in a very strong way to do things differently.”
Pelosi was responding to a question from Cramer, who said that the police brutality protests that have caught the attention of the world are also motivated by long-ignored economic realities. Black communities in America have historically faced unequal access to jobs, education, homeownership and business ownership, among other things, that lead to generational wealth.
Floyd, an unarmed black man, died on Memorial Day while being restrained by four Minneapolis police officers, who have all been charged in his death. One has been charged with murder, while the three others were charged with aiding and abetting murder. The recent deaths of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, the former killed by police in a botched raid and the latter in the hands of vigilantes, and racism in the criminal justice system, among other issues, also sparked the ongoing demonstrations seeking justice.
The events come amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately affected black Americans, an economic downturn that has left tens of millions unemployed and an election year.
“Part of that difference will be to say what are the solutions that can unify our country, rather than assigning blame or past performance, but to say how do we go forward together,” said Pelosi, who has represented California’s 12th District in Congress for three decades.
“Let us recognize the role that the private sector plays in the economic life of our country as job creators, wealth creators and the rest, but let’s also know that there is good governance that creates jobs as well as enables business to function, because of the services rendered by the public sector,” Pelosi added.
While she did not discuss any plans to address long-standing disparities in policing and economic access, among other issues, Pelosi earlier Thursday said members of the Congressional Black Caucus are preparing to introduce a police reform bill addressing excessive use of force, qualified immunity and racial profiling. Qualified immunity has made suing police a tough mountain to climb.
A memorial was held in Minneapolis on Thursday for Floyd, who is heard on video saying “I can’t breathe” as a now-fired police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes while arresting Floyd for allegedly trying to pass counterfeit money. The service, which was broadcast on national networks, came the same day the other three involved officers appeared in court for the first time.