Jurisprudence

George Floyd’s Brother to Congress: “Make It Stop”

Watch Philonise Floyd’s emotional testimony.

Philonise Floyd, wearing a mask, taking a seat with his name plate.
George Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd at a hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Michael Reynolds/Getty Images

On Wednesday, one day after burying his brother George, Philonise Floyd testified before the House Judiciary Committee about the need for police reform.

He described what it felt like to watch former Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin slowly suffocate his older brother with Chauvin’s knee until George Floyd died.

“George always made sacrifices for our family. And he made sacrifices for complete strangers. He gave the little that he had to help others. He was our gentle giant,” Floyd told the committee. “I was reminded of that when I watched the video of his murder. He called all the officers ‘sir.’ He was mild mannered; he didn’t fight back. He listened to all the officers. The man who took his life, who suffocated him for eight minutes and 46 seconds, he still called them ‘sir’ as he begged for his life. I can’t tell you the kind of pain you feel when you watch something like that. When you watch your big brother, who you’ve looked up to your whole entire life, die, die begging for his mom!”

Floyd called on the committee to advance legislation that might hold police officers who use excessive force accountable. The committee is currently considering legislation that would end the judicial concept of qualified immunity for police officers, the practice that makes it nearly impossible to sue officers for excessive force even in cases where someone is killed.

Remembering his brother, who he called Perry, at the end of his opening statement, Philonise Floyd paused for a moment, gathering himself.

“I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to Perry while he was here,” Philonise Floyd said. “I was robbed of that. But I know he’s looking down at us now. Perry, look up at what you did, big brother. You changed the world. Thank you for everything. For taking care of us when on Earth, for taking care of all of us now. I hope you found Mama and you can rest in peace with power.”

Later in his testimony, Philonise Floyd said that he believed that Chauvin’s attack on his brother was “premeditated,” “intentional,” and “personal,” because they had previously worked together. Earlier on Wednesday, it was reported that Floyd and Chauvin did in fact know each other when they worked at the same nightclub and that an employee at the club said “they bumped heads.” (Update, June 11: On Thursday, CBS reported that the nightclub employee who had initially told the network that Chauvin and Floyd knew each other and “bumped heads” reversed his story, saying “there has been a mix up between George and another fellow co-worker.”)

Floyd also noted that past allegations of excessive force against Chauvin should have been enough to have previously disqualified him from the police force.

The five-minute video of Floyd’s opening statement, which is worth watching in full, is below.

You can also read a transcript of the testimony here:

Chairman Jerold Nadler and members of the committee, thank you for the invitation here today to talk about my big brother, George. The world knows him as George, but I called him Perry.

Yesterday, we laid him to rest. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I’m the big brother now. So it’s my job to comfort my brothers and my sisters, Perry’s kids, and everyone who loved him. And that’s a lot of people.

I have to be the strong one now, because George is gone.

And me being the big brother now is why I’m here today. To do what Perry always would have done–to take care of the family and others. I couldn’t take care of George that day he was killed, but maybe by speaking with you today, I can help make sure that his death would not be in vain. To make sure that he is more than another face on a t-shirt, more than another name on a list that won’t stop growing.

George always made sacrifices for our family. And he made sacrifices for complete strangers. He gave the little that he had to help others. He was our gentle giant.

I was reminded of that when I watched the video of his murder. He called all the officers ‘sir.’ He was mild mannered; he didn’t fight back. He listened to all the officers. The man who took his life, who suffocated him for eight minutes and 46 seconds, he still called them ‘sir’ as he begged for his life.

I can’t tell you the kind of pain you feel when you watch something like that. When you watch your big brother, who you’ve looked up to your whole entire life, die, die begging for his mom!

I’m tired! I’m tired of pain! Pain you feel when you watch something like that. When you watch your big brother, who you looked up for your whole life, die, die begging for his mom.

I’m here today to ask you to make it stop. Stop the pain. Stop us from being tired.

George called for help and he was ignored. Please listen to the call I’m making to you now, to the calls of our family, and the calls ringing out the streets across the world.

People of all backgrounds, genders, and races have come together to demand change.

Honor them, honor George, and make the necessary changes that make law enforcement the solution—and not the problem.

Hold them accountable when they do something wrong. Teach them what it means to treat people with empathy and respect. Teach them what necessary force is. Teach them that deadly force should be used rarely and only when life is at risk.

George wasn’t hurting anyone that day. He didn’t deserve to die over twenty dollars. I am asking you, is that what a black man’s worth? Twenty dollars? This is 2020. Enough is enough. The people marching in the streets are telling you enough is enough. Be the leaders that our country, the world needs the right thing.

The people elected you to speak for them, to make positive change. George’s name means something. You have the opportunity here today to make your names mean something, too.

If his death ends up changing the world for the better, and I think it will, then he died as he lived. It is on you to make sure his death is not in vain.

I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to Perry while he was here. I was robbed of that. But, I know he’s looking down at us now. Perry, look up at what you did, big brother. You changed the world. Thank you for everything. For taking care of us when on Earth, for taking care of all of us now. I hope you found Mama and you can rest in peace with power. Thank you.

For more on the impact of George Floyd’s death, subscribe to What Next on Apple Podcasts or listen below.