WASHINGTON — Philonise Floyd, whose brother’s death in police custody has inspired two weeks of sprawling protests across the country, made an impassioned plea to Congress on Wednesday to enact sweeping changes to law enforcement in America to address police brutality and systemic racism.
In wrenching testimony on Capitol Hill, Mr. Floyd described to the House Judiciary Committee the agony he felt as he watched the video of George Floyd, his older brother, dying while pinned under the knee of a white police officer for nearly nine minutes, gasping that he could not breathe. The elder Mr. Floyd was arrested over a complaint that he had bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill.
“I am asking you, is that what a black man’s life is worth? Twenty dollars?” Mr. Floyd asked. “This is 2020. Enough is enough. The people marching in the streets are telling you enough is enough.”
Mr. Floyd was the first witness and marquee voice among more than a half-dozen civil rights experts and activists at a hearing called to consider the most expansive federal intervention into law enforcement that lawmakers have proposed in recent memory, which was put forth by Democrats this week. His remarks came a day after his brother was laid to rest in Houston, amid a groundswell of public support for the Black Lives Matter movement, widespread protests that have convulsed big cities and small towns alike, and a rapidly unfolding national conversation on race in the United States.
“Sitting here, coming to try to tell you all about how I want justice for my brother, I just think about that video over and over again,” Mr. Floyd said in tears.
What happened to his brother, he said, was “a modern-day lynching in broad daylight.”
His testimony added to the mounting sense of urgency on Capitol Hill to overhaul law enforcement practices and address systemic racism in policing. House Democrats have indicated that they intend to act quickly, with a vote on their legislation planned by the end of the month. Congressional Republicans, faced with a rapid shift in public opinion, are scrambling to coalesce around a legislative response.