SAN DIEGO – A U.S. Navy sailor stationed in San Diego on Tuesday reflected on the life and death of his first cousin George Floyd while championing the federal police reform legislation which bears his name.
Speaking one year after he was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, Gary Jones said that Floyd — who he called by his middle name “Perry” — was a loving man with interests in music and basketball. Jones was in Guam with members of the USS Theodore Roosevelt when Floyd died a year ago, a moment which sparked widespread protests and outrage as well as calls for a fundamental shift in community policing.
Jones said Floyd wanted all to be treated with “kindness” and that his death changed the world.
“As my cousin was on the ground, my cousin knew that for some reason he was going to have to make a change,” he said. “It was in him, an intuition. As he was on the ground laying there and looking up at the sky, God makes no mistakes. His life was taken for all of us to all make a change.
“It starts with us, the people down here.”
Some members of Floyd’s family met with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House on Tuesday to commemorate their loss and continue to push for Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The Democratic-controlled House approved a sweeping bill in March that would make it easier for individual police officers to be sued and charged with crimes.
It would also ban chokeholds, limit no-knock warrants and create a national database of officers with histories of complaints and disciplinary problems.
That bill has gone nowhere in the Senate, where the 50 Democrats will need support from at least 10 Republicans to overcome a bill-killing filibuster. GOP lawmakers have preferred more modest changes.
Floyd family lawyer Ben Crump said Biden told them “he doesn’t want to sign a bill that doesn’t have substance and meaning.”
Standing in front of the San Diego County Administration Center, Jones said he supports his family’s efforts and chanted “George Floyd Act” during his remarks.
“He did things to make this world for me and you to have a better place out here,” Jones said. “I’m out here serving the country to make sure the world is a better place and all I ask is as I’m serving the country is that I can die any day. I ask for the gift to be passed down for others to be able to go home safe and sound and go home to their families. That’s all I ask out here.”
Jones was joined by a number of other speakers during the event, including Shane Harris, president of the People’s Alliance for Justice; LaWana Richmond, a business development manager at UC San Diego; Pastor Nate Stewart of the Greater Life Church; and Jesse Evans, a local homeless man who was tackled and repeatedly punched in a recent incident with San Diego police officers.
Harris said the reason all were gathered was to stand in solidarity with Floyd’s family.
“People say, ‘Oh, it’s not about individualized justice. This isn’t about George Floyd; it’s about every family’ and it is,” Harris said. “But tonight, today is the one-year anniversary that we lost George Floyd but also the day that George Floyd changed the world.”
Harris lauded the San Diego County Board of Supervisors for backing the effort to pass the legislation and called on San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and city leaders to do the same.
“The mayor of San Diego Mr. Gloria and City Council has failed to pass a resolution supporting the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021,” he said. “The question I have for them is: Where do you stand in the city of San Diego as a region in regard to supporting this federal reform package and legislation?”
For Jones, he wants people to remember that Floyd made a difference.
“He already knew he was going up to heaven with his mother that day,” he said. “As that was taking place, he already knew he was going to make a change right then and there, for everybody to be treated equally.”