News World US George Floyd family meets US President Joe Biden on anniversary of death
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George Floyd family meets US President Joe Biden on anniversary of death

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US President Joe Biden has privately met relatives of George Floyd, whose death a year ago led to worldwide protests against racism and police brutality.

Members of Mr Floyd’s family are urging politicians to pass police reform in his name.

Mr Floyd, 46-year-old black man who had been handcuffed by police, was killed by a white officer kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes.

His dying words, “I can’t breathe”, were echoed as a slogan in widespread street demonstrations that spread across the US and the world in 2020 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

“If you can make federal laws to protect the [national] bird, which is the bald eagle, you can make federal laws to protect people of colour,” Mr Floyd’s brother, Philonise, said.

He was speaking on the White House driveway after he and five other members of the family met Mr Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris in the Oval Office.

In a statement issued by the White House, Mr Biden said the nation faced “an inflection point”.

“The battle for the soul of America has been a constant push and pull between the American ideal that we’re all created equal and the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart,” he said.

Philonise Floyd and Nancy Pelosi share a moment at the Capitol. Photo: AP

Mr Floyd’s daughter and her mother, along with his sister, brothers, sister-in-law and nephew, were among those in the meeting.

Mr Biden, a Democrat, was expected to discuss the progress of the proposed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act during the meeting.

The President had wanted US politicians to finish work on the legislation overhauling police practices by the anniversary of Mr Floyd’s death.

A bipartisan group of politicians in the House and Senate had been working toward that end.

The lawyer representing Mr Floyd’s family, Benjamin Crump, said Congress needed to urgently pass police reform legislation.

“We all want better policing, we all want just policing for George Floyd to get an opportunity to take a breath without having a knee on his neck, so we’re going to continue with his family and this legal team to continue to press,” he said.

Mr Floyd was stopped on May 25 last year. Photo: AP

Police officer faces 40 years in jail

Former police officer Derek Chauvin, 45, faces up to 40 years in prison when he is sentenced on June 25.

The three other officers at the scene have pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting Chauvin, and will go on trial next year.

The Minneapolis Police Department fired all four officers the day after Mr Floyd was killed.

Shots fired near site of killing

Mourners were to gather for a candlelight vigil at the stretch of road where Mr Chauvin knelt on Mr Floyd’s neck.

Hours before the events began in Minneapolis, the intersection where Mr Floyd died was disrupted by the sound of gunfire.

Associated Press video from 38th Street and Chicago Avenue – informally known as George Floyd Square – showed people running for cover as shots rang out.

Police said a man went to a nearby hospital with a gunshot wound.

Police spokesman John Elder said he was in critical condition but was expected to survive.

No one was in custody by midday local time.

Philip Crowther, a reporter for AP Global Media Services, which provides live video coverage, reported hearing as many as 30 gunshots about a block from the intersection.

Crowther said a shop window appeared to have been broken by bullets.

“Very quickly things got back to normal,” he said.

“People here who spent a significant amount of time, the organisers, were running around asking, ‘Does anyone need a medic?’.”

-with wires