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Civil Rights Lawyer And George Floyd's Brother On 'Painful' 2020 March On Washington

Philonise Floyd, right, brother of George Floyd, gets ready to march from the Lincoln Memorial to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, during the March on Washington on Friday.
Philonise Floyd, right, brother of George Floyd, gets ready to march from the Lincoln Memorial to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, during the March on Washington on Friday.

Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump has represented the families of some of the recent victims of police brutality, including Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and now, Jacob Blake.

Blake, a black man shot multiple times by police in Kenosha, Wis., this week, is currently paralyzed from the waist down and in stable condition in intensive care, according to Crump.

"They're still trying to remove bullet fragments from around his spinal cord," Crump said in an interview with Morning Edition.

Crump and Philonise Floyd, the younger brother of George Floyd — a Black man who died while being pinned down by Minneapolis police — spoke with NPR about Blake, evolving protests of the shooting in Kenosha, Wis., and Friday's march for racial equality in Washington.

Here are excerpts of the conversation:

In your conversations with Jacob Blake, do you have any sense from him as to why, at any point, he didn't raise his hands — if he ever made any kind of physical or verbal indication of surrender?

Crump:You know, ma'am, we won't go into these tactics by law enforcement to try to justify the unjustifiable. All you have to do is look at that video. Every aspect of that video shows him struggling to get away from law enforcement. Why does a Black man who shoots nobody, poses a threat to nobody — when he's shot in the back several times, we have to explain everything. But when a young white man shoots and kills people and he can walk by the police and nobody shoots him in the back.

In this case, Jacob Blake is alive, though, in serious condition. What is the ideal outcome in this case for you, for him?

Crump:Well, certainly, as with all these tragedies, you want accountability because we can't get justice. Justice would be George Floyd being able to take another breath today. Justice would be Breonna Taylor still being here. Justice would be Ahmaud Arbery still being here. So the only thing we can hope for right now is accountability, that these people will be held accountable for the crimes that they have committed against Black people in America, even though they swore to protect and serve them. And the problem isn't deescalation. The problem is racism.

Philonise, how have you been watching what's happened in Kenosha, the shooting of Jacob Blake and the protests? How have you been absorbing all of that?

Floyd:It is painful just sitting there watching it, just thinking about everything that we have marched for. Jacob Blake. It's like he's going to be paralyzed from being shot in the back by yet again a police officer, you know, while his children — he couldn't do anything, we just watched him being shot in front of them like that. That's a painful thing, knowing that, like, these people are trained, like trained professionals that are supposed to serve and protect. How could you sit down and watch that when police officers — they just won't stop killing us, man.

The March on Washington in 1963, obviously now we are so many decades later, an anniversary march is scheduled for today. There will be family members there of Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, obviously your family, the Floyd family. How will this march be different than that original march in 1963?

Floyd: This march, I guess basically it's all the same, we're all here, we're all working together, we're stronger in numbers, but the things that are going on, and the senseless killings and stuff, they have not stopped. I'm just thinking about the other families that's going to be there. You know, we don't want to see nobody else hurt. It's a lot of pain and we're hurting on the inside and outside. You can't see the inside, but you can see what's going on on the outside.

Mr. Crump, what will this march mean?

Crump: This march will mean renewing our commitment to make sure that people know we can have a more just society where George Floyd does have an opportunity to take a breath. Breonna Taylor does have an opportunity to sleep in peace, Ahmad Arbery does have an opportunity to run free and not be lynched in 2020. Where Jacob Blake Jr. has the opportunity to enjoy his son's birthday without being shot in the back seven times. And so we come to Washington, D.C., to declare our commitment to where the Constitution says "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

NPR's Danny Hajek, Nina Kravinsky and Krista Kapralos produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Emma Bowman adapted it for the Web.

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Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.