Three recent brutal deaths of black Americans — including George Floyd in Minneapolis — drove a new call Friday from civil rights lawyers for congressional action for greater police accountability.
Benjamin Crump represents Floyd’s survivors as well as the mother of Ahmaud Aubery, a young man who was shot while jogging in a Georgia suburb. He and fellow attorney Lee Merritt called for justice for the two men, along with Breonna Taylor, who was shot to death in her apartment in Louisville by police executing an aggressive no-knock search warrant in a drug investigation.
They called on Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison to take over the prosecution of the police officers involved in killing Floyd on Monday night in south Minneapolis — an improbable prospect for the state’s top lawyer.
The internet news conference was moderated by television personality Van Jones. The lawyers talked about convening a congressional task force and using boycotts and travel embargoes as leverage. They offered minimal specific proposals and took only a few questions submitted in writing, selected and posed by Jones.
The families of the victims didn’t attend and weren’t available but they issued a joint statement beforehand saying it was important “now — more than ever — we use our voices to enact change, demand accountability within our justice system and keep the legacies of Breonna, Ahmaud and George alive. This is a national crisis and our government needs to take immediate and widespread action to protect our black and brown communities.”
Merritt said there needs to be greater focus on police accountability, stripping their qualified immunity and giving them better training. “Our officers are trained to kill,” Merritt said.
The two lawyers spent much of their news conference focusing on comments Freeman made the previous day — and that his office later clarified through a written statement — about there not being enough evidence to support a criminal charge.
Merritt said there was “more than enough evidence to arrest.”
The lawyers faulted Hennepin County prosecutors for not immediately arresting the involved officers and said Ellison should take over the case.
Since the news conference, Officer Derek Chauvin has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.