On Wednesday, June 17, a House Judiciary Committee hearing on police reform got heated when a shouting match occurred between two representatives. Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana and Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida both spoke passionately and shouted over each other.
After a lengthy, 11-hour session on historic police reform legislation, the committee voted along party lines. The video showing the fiery exchange between the two lawmakers was shared on Twitter by The Hill:
"Who in the hell do you think you are?"
FIERY: Rep. Cedric Richmond and Rep. Matt Gaetz spar during House debate pic.twitter.com/oIpBFfGa2N
— The Hill (@thehill) June 18, 2020
Richmond Said He Wanted to Focus on the Issue at Hand & Avoid Distractions
During his time, Richmond told the committee:
As a black male who went to the fifth-best public high school in the country, who was a victim of excessive force, who has a black son, who has worries that you all don’t, and to my colleagues, especially the ones that keep introducing amendments that are a tangent and a distraction from what we’re talking about, you all are white males.
You’ve never lived in my shoes, and you do not know what it’s like to be an African American male. And all I’m saying, is if you are opposed to this legislation, let’s just have the vote, but please do not come in this committee room and make a mockery of the pain that exists in my community.
Richmond spoke about the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the many people who voted against these acts because of the “side issues.” He said he doesn’t want a watered-down version of the bill, so if there are other issues, they should be addressed in other bills so this one can focus on the issue at hand. Richmond continued, “I’m not interested in studying Antifa. I’m not even interested in studying the [Ku Klux Klan] or sovereign citizens right now because that is not the imminent threat that black men face on a daily basis, and right now, too often, it is law enforcement – those who were sworn to protect and to serve.”
He concluded by saying that what he wanted to do was to deal with that. He said, “I don’t want you all to leave here saying ‘Well we didn’t know. We didn’t know that’s how you felt, Cedric.’ I want it to be crystal clear, and I will give you the benefit of the doubt that it is unconscious bias that I’m hearing because at worse, it’s conscious bias and that I would hate to assume [that] from any of the people on the other side.”
At that point, he was asked to yield by Gaetz. The Republican representative said, “I appreciate your passion,” but objected to Richmond’s point that other representatives were unable to understand the issue at hand. He continued, “Are you suggesting that you’re certain that none of us have non-white children? Because you reflect on your black son, and you said none of us could understand.”
Richmond then cut him off, saying, “Matt, Matt. Stop. I’m not about to get sidetracked about the color of our children…” Richmond said he reclaimed his time then added, “It is not about the color of your kids. It is about black males, black people in the streets that are getting killed, and if one of them happens to be your kid, I’m concerned about him, too, and clearly, I’m more concerned about him than you are.”
Gaetz fired back: “You’re claiming you have more concern for my family than I do? Who in the hell do you think you are?” To which Richmond answered, “If the shoe fits.”
Gaetz continued, “You should take those words down. I know you care about your family and love your family; so do we, dammit!”
Richmond then said, “Was that a nerve?” and Gaetz answered, “Yeah, you’re damn right it was a nerve.”
The Police Reform Bill Is Sponsored by Democratic Rep. Karen Bass of California
The bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Karen Bass of California, seeks to ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants at the federal level, make body cameras mandatory for officers and establish a National Police Misconduct Registry to track officers accused of misconduct if they’re moving jurisdictions, among other key reforms.
This legislation follows weeks of protests in the U.S. following George Floyd’s death in police custody. On May 25, Floyd, a black man, died during an arrest when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for 8 minutes. Chauvin has since been fired and charged with second-degree murder.