Criminal Justice

Attorney urges other lawyers to use outrage over George Floyd's death to demand policing reforms

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Ben Crump headshot

Lawyer Ben Crump announced a federal civil rights lawsuit in July against the city of Minneapolis on behalf of the family of George Floyd, who was killed by Minneapolis police officers. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Speaking on what would have been George Floyd’s 47th birthday, civil rights lawyer Ben Crump urged attendees of the annual Clio Cloud Conference on Wednesday to use the widespread outrage generated by Floyd’s death at the hands of law enforcement to demand policing reforms.

“We have to be able to transform the protests into policy that will prayerfully and hopefully prevent future hashtags, future Black Lives Matter victims, future children of people of color being killed in the most unjustifiable, most unnecessary and most senseless manner,” said Crump, a lawyer for Floyd’s family.

Crump spoke on the second day of the four-day conference, which is being hosted virtually for the first time because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He began his keynote by asking those tuning in to take a moment of silence to reflect on the calls for change that Floyd’s death in late May in Minneapolis sparked in the United States and across the globe.

He also said Floyd’s family wanted what would have been his birthday to be a day of action. So Crump urged the lawyer attendees to set aside eight minutes and 46 seconds on Wednesday—the amount of time that a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck—to “reflect on what we can do collectively to make sure we use the law as an instrument of good—not just allow the enemies of equality to use the law as an instrument of oppression.”

In addition to Floyd, Crump has helped represent the families of other high-profile Black people who have been killed in 2020, including Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

He mentioned their cases, as well as the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, to make the case that the COVID-19 pandemic was no reason for supporters of equal justice under the law to pause their efforts.

“It seems like everything in America shut down during the pandemic except racism and discrimination, and we saw it play out over and over and over again in 2020,” Crump said.

Crump also lamented a justice system that he said results in the poor, particularly poor people of color, frequently being on the receiving end of injustice.

Near the conclusion of his remarks, he emphasized the importance of lawyers and aspiring lawyers speaking truth to power in hopes of making the justice system better and more fair for future generations.

“Brother and sisters at Clio Con, I tell you it is the right thing to do to speak up for our children, to stand up for our children, to fight for our children, all of our children,” Crump said. “Because if we don’t stand in the gap for them, who will stand in the gap for them to make sure we have a better world for all of our children?”

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