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Family Attorney Speaks 1 Year After George Floyd's Killing

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

One year ago, the Minneapolis Police Department put out a statement saying, man dies after medical incident during police interaction. We now know that death was a murder. Former officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on the neck of George Floyd for more than nine minutes. And that killing sparked a global movement for racial justice. Ben Crump is the attorney who represents George Floyd's family and many other families of Black people killed by police. And he joins us to discuss this anniversary.

Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Good to have you here.

BENJAMIN CRUMP: Thank you very much for having me, Ari.

SHAPIRO: How are you thinking about this day, this anniversary?

CRUMP: Well, you look at the progress we've made, but you reflect on how much progress we have yet to make. You think about all the Black people who were killed after George Floyd was tortured to death on May 25, 2020.

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

CRUMP: And you scratch your head and you say, I thought we had reached a tipping point in America - finally, they would stop killing us unjustly. I think like any journey to justice, we've made progress. We took steps forward. But obviously, there have been some back steps. But I think we're moving forward.

SHAPIRO: Well, one of those steps forward was the conviction, Derek Chauvin being found guilty of murder. I last spoke to you the morning after that verdict came down. Have you seen any ripples from that guilty verdict in the months since?

CRUMP: I have. I have seen that in Andre Hill, who was killed in Columbus, Ohio. His case has moved forward. The attorney general is very vigilant on making sure that they zealously prosecute that case now. Because I think in many ways, the Derek Chauvin trial reinvolving (ph) the killing of George Floyd was a new precedent. In Andre Hill's case, you also have another officer that pierced the blue wall of silence. And I know since that conviction, the prosecutors in Houston for Pamela Turner, an unarmed Black woman who was shot in the face, in the chest and in the stomach, and it's on video - that the prosecutors are now going more zealously in prosecuting that case.

SHAPIRO: And yet, for every one of the examples that you cite where there is accountability, there's a case like Elizabeth City, N.C., where there will not be charges brought against police for fatally shooting a Black man.

CRUMP: Yeah. And that tells you we have work to do - because of Andrew Brown, who was driving away from the police, and they shot him in the back of the brain; or like Anthony McClain in Pasadena, Calif., who was running away from the police, literally ran out of his shoes, and they shot him twice in the back, killing him; or Trayford Pellerin in Baton Rouge, La., who was shot in the back; or Jacob Blake Jr. in Kenosha, Wis., who was shot in the back while going away several times and paralyzed him; or Dijon Kizzee, who was shot in the back in Los Angeles County, sheriff's deputy; or Rayshard Brooks, who was shot in the back. All of these are post George Floyd, and all of these happened in 2020.

SHAPIRO: So I guess the question is, are we seeing one step forward, two steps back, or are we seeing two steps forward, one step back?

CRUMP: I think we're seeing two steps forward, one step back. Because I do think that America is finally having the conversation of a racial reckoning as it relates to police brutality on Black people. And it's important to have the conversation, but talk is cheap. What we need is action. And that's why we need the United States Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which will represent the first meaningful police reform legislation that we've had in America in 57 years.

SHAPIRO: President Biden wanted the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to pass in time for this anniversary. That has not happened. Do you think there's still hope to pass this?

CRUMP: I do. I am cautiously optimistic that we will get meaningful police reform. And it has to be meaningful because George Floyd's blood is on that legislation, Breonna Taylor's blood is on that legislation, Jacob Blake Jr.'s blood is on that legislation and all the other names I've named. So it has to be meaningful. And we didn't want a bill passed, as Reverend Al and I have often talked, just to say for the sake we got a bill signed by...

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

CRUMP: ...His one-year anniversary and it not have any substance to it.

SHAPIRO: Reverend Al Sharpton, yeah.

CRUMP: Yes.

SHAPIRO: I know the Floyd family is meeting with the president at the White House tomorrow. What's their message for him?

CRUMP: Well, it's real simple. They want to continue to define the legacy of George Floyd, and they hope that he as an ally would join them in defining that legacy so that it would be, one, meaningful and respectful, but more importantly, that it can prevent future unnecessary, unjustifiable and unconstitutional killings of Black people in America.

SHAPIRO: I'm just thinking of that long, long list of names that you gave us just a few minutes ago and the long history in this country of Black people experiencing violence and death at the hands of police. And I wonder whether you think there is hope for a time that there are not any names on that list anymore. I mean, is that a reasonable hope?

CRUMP: Absolutely. You know, there was a time in America where they said slavery would never end. We kept chipping away at it. There was a time in America where they said segregation would never end, and we kept chipping away at it. And a lot of people say there'll never be a time in America where Black people will be treated equally and justly by police officers in America, but we keep chipping away at it every day. We can never lose hope for a better world for our children, where all our children will be able to recite with liberty and justice for all and know that that means something, that it's not just rhetoric.

SHAPIRO: Attorney Ben Crump speaking with us on this anniversary of the death of George Floyd.

Thank you very much.

CRUMP: Thank you, Ari. God bless you, brother.

(SOUNDBITE OF HIPPIE SABOTAGE'S "OM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.