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Families of Black people killed by police among State of the Union guests

Mothers, fathers and siblings of Black people killed by police will attend President Biden’s State of the Union address as guests of the Congressional Black Caucus, which has ramped up a push for police reform since Tyre Nichols’s killing.

The 15 invitees will include Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who died after a New York police officer placed him in a banned chokehold; Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, whose 2020 death became a catalyst for a summer of racial justice demonstrations nationwide; Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old who was playing with a toy pellet gun when police shot and killed him; and Sterling Brown, who was Tasered by Milwaukee police in connection with a routine parking violation.

During his address, Biden will call on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, an expansive bill targeting racial bias and use of force that has stalled in Congress after Republican opposition.

Several of the attendees joined members of the Congressional Black Caucus at a news conference Tuesday that called for reforms, including the widespread use of body cameras, a national registry for police misconduct and mandatory de-escalation training. Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), chairman of the caucus, told the mother of Tyre Nichols, RowVaughn Wells, and his stepfather, Rodney Wells, that lawmakers would continue efforts in Nichols’s honor. The 29-year-old was brutally beaten to death by Memphis police after he was pulled over for a traffic stop in January, prompting investigations and calls for a sweeping overhaul of policing.

“It may have been Tyre Nichols yesterday,” Horsford said. “But it could be any one of us today and tomorrow.”

Horsford referred to the caucus’s meeting with Biden and Vice President Harris last week, which he had previously said ended with an “agreement.”

“We know that action is warranted,” Horsford said Tuesday. “Legislative action, executive action and community-based solutions. That’s what we’re calling for. That’s what we spoke to the president and vice president about. That’s what we expect to hear at the State of the Union tonight.”

Nichols’s parents have been invited to join first lady Jill Biden in her viewing box for the president’s speech with other White House guests.

Several Republicans chose to honor law enforcement with their invitations. Rep. Mike Garcia (Calif.) will bring Tania Owen, the wife of a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sergeant who was shot and killed by a suspect when responding to a burglary call in 2016. Reps. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Lori Chavez-DeRemer (Ore.) will host law enforcement officers from their districts.

In addition to the guests, some lawmakers will promote police reform by donning an accessory: a black button emblazoned with the year 1870, referring to the first known instance of a police officer killing an unarmed, free Black person in the United States. Philadelphia police chased and shot Henry Truman on March 31, 1870, the same year the nation adopted the 15th Amendment, giving Black men the right to vote. The pins, distributed by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), are intended to represent how “history has repeated itself once again,” according to a note attached to the pins.

It read: “153 years later, nothing has changed.” Watson Coleman has distributed about 30 of the pins.

She told The Post that her intention with the pins is to “start a conversation” about the lack of progress the nation has made. Despite a Democratic minority in the House, she said she believes discussions about the history of police violence might encourage constituents to lobby their representatives for reform.

“I have to feel hopeful,” she said.

Marianna Sotomayor contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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