House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the widely circulated video of a Minneapolis police officer pressing his knee into the neck of a Black man, George Floyd, showed a “murder right before our very eyes.”
“It’s so very, very sad because the American people saw an execution, a murder right before our very eyes," the Democratic leader said Thursday in an appearance on MSNBC. “It wasn’t self defense."
Floyd died while in police custody. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that paramedics could not detect Floyd’s pulse when they arrived to assist, citing a report from the fire department.
Speaking to NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Pelosi called for justice to be served for Floyd.
Mitchell played a video clip of former professional basketball player Stephen Jackson, who was a close friend of Floyd’s, describing Floyd as genuine and supportive.
“There has to be justice in that case and to hear Mr. Jackson and then Bridget, Mr. Floyd’s sister, talk about him. He was such a gentle person, wouldn’t hurt a fly," Pelosi said. “So lovely, so missed, our prayers and thoughts are with him. But whether he wouldn’t hurt a fly or not doesn’t mean that he should be executed on TV or any place. We saw it. So we can’t deny it or qualify it so justice must be done. It must be prosecuted.”
The four officers involved in the arrest were fired Tuesday. On Wednesday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey called for the white officer who was seen pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, to face criminal charges.
The FBI is conducting a civil rights investigation into the arrest at the request of Minneapolis police.
In the cell phone video of the arrest, Floyd is seen on the ground with his hands behind his back in handcuffs as Chauvin kneels on Floyd’s neck as he says “I can’t breathe.” Paramedics later lift Floyd’s limp body onto a stretcher and place him in an ambulance.
Protests across the country have erupted in the days since Floyd’s death, including violent scenes in Minneapolis Wednesday night, when one man was killed, fires were set in stores and on city blocks, and stores were looted.
On Thursday, protesters stormed a Minneapolis police precinct, where fire alarms blared and sprinklers ran as blazes were set.
Watch Nancy Pelosi speak about George Floyd’s death:
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Amanda Kaufman can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandakauf1.