Tensions flare between Reps. Cedric Richmond and Matt Gaetz during police reform hearing

Tensions flared between Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) Wednesday at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on police reform.  

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday advanced historic legislation on reforming police practices in the wake of the death of George Floyd. The committee voted along party lines after a marathon 11-hour markup.  

During the hearing, Richmond told his fellow lawmakers that “as a black male who went to the fifth best public high school in the country, who was a victim of excessive force, who has a black son, who has worries that you all don’t, and to my colleagues, especially the ones that keep introducing amendments that are a tangent and a distraction from what we’re talking about, you all are white males.”

“You’ve never lived in my shoes, and you do not know what it’s like to be an African American male,” he continued, “and all I’m saying is if you are opposed to this legislation, let’s just have the vote, but please do not come in this committee room and make a mockery of the pain that exists in my community.”

Richmond rejected voting on “side issues,” including an amendment Republicans on the committee pushed for to investigate antifa, a loosely affiliated anti-fascist movement.

“I’m not even interested in studying the klan or sovereign citizens right now, because that is not the imminent threat that black men face on a daily basis, and right now, too often, it is law enforcement those who were sworn to protect and to serve,” Richmond said. “And so all we’re asking today is to deal with that.”

“I don’t want you all to leave here saying, ‘Well we didn’t know. We didn’t know that’s how you felt, Cedric.’ I want it to be crystal clear, and I will give you the benefit of the doubt that it is unconscious bias that I’m hearing because at worse, it’s conscious bias,” he continued, “and that I would hate to assume from any of the people on the other side.”

Gaetz objected to Richmond saying that they could not understand the issue personally.

“I appreciate your passion,” Gaetz told the Democratic lawmaker. “Are you suggesting that you’re certain that none of us have non-white children? Because you reflect on your black son, and you said none of us could understand.” 

“Matt, Matt. Stop,” Richmond said, cutting off Gaetz. “I’m not about to get sidetracked about the color of our children. … It is not about the color of your kids. It is about black males, black people in the streets that are getting killed, and if one of them happens to be your kid, I’m concerned about him, too, and clearly, I’m more concerned about him than you are.”

“You’re claiming you have more concern for my family than I do?” Gaetz shot back. “Who in the hell do you think you are?”

Richmond replied: “If the shoe fits.”

“You should take those words down. I know you care about your family and love your family, so do we, damn it,” Gaetz added, with Richmond responding, “Was that a nerve?” 

The law, sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), would ban police chokeholds, mandate body cameras, make lynching a federal crime, prohibit no-knock warrants in drug cases and establish a federal registry of officers accused of misconduct.

The legislation follows nationwide protests over Floyd’s death. Floyd died during an arrest last month after a now-former Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.

Tags Black Lives Matter Cedric Richmond George Floyd George Floyd death George Floyd protests Karen Bass Matt Gaetz police brutality police reform

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