George Floyd’s brother tells UN: Black Lives Don’t Matter in America

Philonise Floyd: Black Lives Don’t Matter in America
Philonise Floyd: Black Lives Don’t Matter in America

George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd on Wednesday begged the United Nations to help African Americans because “black lives do not matter in the United States”.

His appeal came as the UN’s rights chief urged reparations for centuries of discrimination.

Philonise Floyd made an impassioned speech via video-link to an urgent United Nations Human Rights Council debate on “systemic racism” in the US and beyond.

Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the “gratuitous brutality” of Floyd’s death in police custody encapsulated racism that harmed millions of people of African descent.

She also urged countries to confront the legacy of slavery and colonialism and to make reparations.

The council, based in Geneva, is debating a draft resolution pushing for Bachelet to investigate racism and police civil liberties violations against people of African descent in the United States.

President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the council two years ago.

Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died in Minneapolis on May 25 after a white police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

The officer has been charged with murder.

Amateur video of the incident sparked demonstrations and calls to address systemic racism in the United States and around the world.

Philonise Floyd said his brother had been “tortured to death” as witnesses begged the officer to stop, “showing us black people the same lesson, yet again: black lives do not matter in the United States of America”.

“You in the United Nations are your brothers’ and sisters’ keepers in America, and you have the power to help us get justice for my brother George Floyd.”

“I am asking you to help him. I am asking you to help me. I am asking you to help us black people in America.”

He urged them to establish an independent international commission of inquiry — one of the UN’s highest-level probes, generally reserved for major crises like the Syrian conflict.

An initial text presented on Tuesday on behalf of 54 African countries had proposed such an inquiry.

But the proposal was dropped, the resolution heavily watered down following stark opposition from Washington and some of its allies.

It now calls on Bachelet and UN rights experts to “establish the facts and circumstances relating to the systemic racism, alleged violations of international human rights law and abuses against Africans and people of African descent” by law enforcement in the US and beyond — especially those incidents that resulted in deaths.

In her statement to the council, Bachelet said Floyd’s death had brought to head the sense of outrage felt by overlooked people and the protests were “the culmination of many generations of pain”.

“Behind today’s racial violence, systemic racism, and discriminatory policing lies the failure to acknowledge and confront the legacy of the slave trade and colonialism,” the former Chilean president said.

She stressed the need to “make amends for centuries of violence and discrimination, including through formal apologies, truth-telling processes, and reparations in various forms.”

The UN Human Rights Council’s 47 members are due to vote on the resolution following the urgent debate, which was set to conclude on Thursday.

Wednesday marks only the fifth time in the council’s 14-year history that it has agreed to hold an “urgent debate”, which is like a special session, but within a regular session of the council.