Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has weighed in on the murder of George Floyd, voicing appreciation for the outrage caused by his death, while denouncing the violent protesters who disrupt peaceful demonstrations.
Speaking on the Senate floor Monday, McConnell (R-Ky.) described “an hour of great pain and unrest in our country.”
“Americans from coast to coast have been grieved and horrified by the killings of African-American citizens: Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, and George Floyd in Minneapolis,” the leading Senate Republican began.
“In each disturbing situation, investigations and reviews are ongoing,” he continued, adding that he was pleased that relevant law enforcement agencies had begun taking appropriate actions in those cases. “We need the truth, and we need swift justice under law.”
The Kentucky senator went on to denounce the killing of 46-year-old Floyd specifically.
“But here is something that requires no investigation: In no world whatsoever should arresting a man for an alleged minor infraction involve a police officer putting his knee on the man’s neck for nine minutes while he cries out ‘I can’t breathe’ and then goes silent,” he remarked.
McConnell went on to argue that “these disturbing events do not look like three isolated incidents.”
Instead, he said, “they look more like the latest chapters in our national struggle to make equal justice and equal protection of the law into facts of life for all Americans, rather than contingencies that sometimes depend on the color of one’s skin.”
Protests and riots erupted across the nation over the weekend in a show of outrage against the murder of Floyd, an unarmed black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis last week.
Floyd could be heard in video of the killing pleading that he could not breathe while being pinned down by since-fired Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin for over eight minutes.
Monday’s remarks were not McConnell’s first public condemnation of Floyd’s murder. On Friday, he said that the four police officers involved in the arrest — and subsequent killing — of Floyd “look pretty darn guilty.”
“We have a way of dealing with crime in this country, it’s called prosecution and conviction. Everybody is entitled to the protections of the court system, even people who apparently — if you see what happened — look pretty darn guilty,” he said while speaking to reporters at a news conference in Kentucky.
The majority leader went on to describe the facts of the case as “pretty obvious” and “absolutely horrendous,” warning, however, that those protesting must do so peacefully.
“I’ve always been a supporter of demonstrations, but they need to be peaceful, and this senseless violence in reaction to this is not helpful to anyone and I hope it will stop,” he said.
Asked again about the looting, he reiterated that such behaviors needed to stop, but repeatedly conceded that “you can certainly understand the outrage.”
On the Senate floor, he condemned those committing violent acts amid otherwise peaceful demonstrations.
“I have spent decades in the Senate not only as an advocate for civil rights, but as a First Amendment purist. So I completely support and fully defend citizens’ constitutional rights to speak their minds and engage in peaceful protest. Our nation cannot deafen itself to the anger, pain, or frustration of black Americans. Our nation needs to hear this,” he said.
“Yet over the last several days, citizens have watched with horror as cities across America have convulsed with looting, riots, and destruction. On a nightly basis initially peaceful demonstrators have been hijacked. Americans have watched protests dedicated to ending unjust violence mutate into riots that inflict unjust violence themselves,” the Kentucky Republican continued.
McConnell went on to argue that those who destroy small businesses, steal expensive merchandise or set fires to churches would not advance the cause of racial justice and policing reforms.
“Free speech and peaceful protest are central American liberties. Looting, rioting, assault, and arson are violent crimes that have no place whatsoever in our society.”
Cities across the US were rocked by yet another night of heated protests, violence against cops and looting on Monday evening — which marked one week since Floyd’s murder.
The nighttime chaos unfolded in places like New York City, Las Vegas, Buffalo and St. Louis, where four police officers were shot and downtown areas ransacked by looters and left in flames.
Dozens of cities have imposed curfews in hopes of curtailing the violence and looting, while governors in 23 states and DC have activated 67,000 troops with the National Guard.
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