80ºF

Attorneys representing Arbery, other families call for sweeping criminal justice reform

Families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor join forces

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article contained the wrong link to watch the conference with. It has been replaced.


The families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor -- three black people whose deaths in recent weeks that have set off national protests --are calling for congressional hearings and a national task force.

They want bipartisan legislation to address what they call excessive force and a lack of accountability in policing.

High-profile civil rights attorneys Lee Merritt and Benjamin Crump, along with commentator Van Jones, called Friday for action from Congress on what they call a lack of accountability in some of America’s police departments.

They said the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, who was shot in her own Kentucky home, represent only a fraction of a much bigger issue.

“We can no longer do this on a case-by-case basis,” Merritt said. “We cannot call and galvanize the community to focus on one incidence of injustice when we know there are more than a thousand police officer-involved shootings a year.”

Merritt said a large portion of police-involved shootings are justified, but, he said, far too many shootings of unarmed black men are NOT justified.

Crump called the recent shooting deaths a national crisis and human rights violation that needs further scrutiny from a federal level.

The plan the families and attorneys are backing includes passing legislation that holds officers accountable for violence. Crump and Merritt specifically mentioned eliminating qualified-immunity for officers and removal of additional protections available to law enforcement.

Crump said they want a task force of community leaders and civil rights leaders that is organized to respond whenever necessary, not just to high-profile cases.

“For every Ahmaud Arbery, for every Trayvon Martin, there are dozens of calls that we get that never get covered by the news, and they need a response too,”

The announcement included a call for justice in the death of each victim: Breonna Taylor was a black EMT who was killed when officers in plain clothes served a no-knock warrant and forced their way inside her home. Ahmaud Arbery was a jogger in Southeast Georgia who was killed when a father and son attempted a citizens arrest and George Floyd died in police custody after an officer put a knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes.

The families and attorneys said they’re planning to create a task force to organize national sanctions. The sanctions would include rolling boycotts, corporate withdrawal, and travel embargoes to the areas where each death occurred.

“We are demanding that our lawmakers and congressional decision makers craft legislation specifically designed to deal with the crisis, and I repeat the crisis of lack of accountability and excessive force when it comes to policing,” Merritt said.

The lawyers say they are also planning to present a case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee to bring about sweeping changes in the nation’s criminal justice system.


About the Authors: