Congress needs to act and get the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed ⋆

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said that his book, “Break the Wheel,” was inspired by the 2020 murder of George Floyd, an African American man who died at the hands of Minneapolis law enforcement. 

Here’s how the Democrat and Detroit native learned about the Memorial Day killing of Floyd. 

“My phone woke me up at 4:45 a.m.,” Ellison writes. “It was lighting up, begging for my attention. Still half asleep, I swung my feet to the side of the bed and reached for the phone. I hoped I wouldn’t wake my wife. 

“I thumbed the glowing screen to find out what was going on.”

Ellison then watched the video.

“’Mamma! Mamma! I’m through!’ shouted the Black man trapped under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. It brought me back to other cases that I’ve worked on. It brought me back to the civil unrest in Detroit [in 1967],” Ellison told the Advance on Thursday.  

In 2021, a jury found Derek Chauvin guilty in the death of Floyd. The former Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd, who was handcuffed and facedown on the pavement, for more than 9 minutes. 

Ellison was sworn in as Minnesota’s 30th attorney general in 2019. He was the first African American and the first Muslim American to be elected to statewide office in Minnesota. 

From 2007 to 2019, he represented Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House. He also served as deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee from 2017 to 2018. 

During the interview with Advance, Ellison talked about his upbringing in Detroit, the Floyd killing, and his concerns about policing in America and Congressional GOP efforts to block passage of the police reform. 

“When I write the ‘Break the Wheel’ it’s not just about describing a problem, it’s a recipe for solving a problem using a peculiar example,” Ellison said.  

The following are excerpts from the interview:

: Did the Floyd killing change America?

Ellison: There have been some good things that have happened. In Colorado, they have banned and altered qualified immunity, which is a barrier to civil liability. In Minneapolis, we implemented a program where the police department is now under the jurisdiction of the department of public safety which now addresses mental health, housing and 911 help, these kinds of things. We now have a better disciplinary process for police and more effective officer wellness programs.

‘No justice, no peace’: Detroit rallies to protest Floyd killing

: Detroit has been progressive in creating a civilian police board. Is that important? 

Ellison: Sure. I was well aware when [the late Detroit Mayor] Coleman Young was elected that part of why he was elected was to end Stop the Robberies, Enjoy Safe Streets (STRESS) [a 1970s Detroit Police Department decoy initiative that disproportionately arrested and killed African Americans]. 

That was one of the reasons that he came into office. Black Detroiters were like, ‘We can’t have this.’ If you live under a government system where the government can employ arbitrary violence based on who you are, and your ancestors’ condition of servitude then that is a deprivation of human rights. That’s an attack on democracy and unconstitutional. We’ve gotta look at that. 

: We are talking on the anniversary of the 2016 Philando Castile killing in Minnesota, a 32-year-old African-American man fatally shot during a traffic stop by a police officer. Does your state have a problem with police brutality? 

Ellison: We cannot deny that this problem is occurring. This problem is nationwide and cannot deny that we [Black people] are disproportionately the targets of it. In order to enjoy a full democracy, it’s gotta stop. We still have to get the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed. So Congress has got to act. 

: When you are home in Detroit, where do you go? What do you do? 

Ellison: This time we got some Faygo pop and Better Made chips. Stopped off at [Elias Brothers] Big Boy, which they don’t have in Minnesota. Took a swing around Hart Plaza and even visited the Michigan Chronicle, which is a landmark.

authored by Ken Coleman
First published at

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