A House Judiciary Committee hearing on a Democratic-backed police reform bill Wednesday erupted into a shouting match over race between Reps. Cedric Richmond, D-La., and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.
Richmond opened his remarks on the markup of the Justice in Police Act by saying he was “offended and angry as hell” by Republicans who wanted to inject needless amendments into the bill, such as addressing the “antifa” movement.
Democrats introduced the bill this month to overhaul law enforcement as the nation grapples with a reckoning over race and policing following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota in May and the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky in March, among other incidents.
“You all are white men who have never lived in my shoes, and you do not know what it is like to be an African American male,” said Richmond, who is Black. “And if you are opposed, let’s just have the vote. But please do not come into this committee and make a mockery of the pain that exists in my community.”
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Eight of the 40 House Judiciary Committee members are Black, and four are Black men. All Black members of the committee are Democrats.
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That’s when Rep. Matt Gaetz, who is white and a staunch ally of President Donald Trump, chimed in and tried to shout down Richmond.
“I appreciate your passion,” Gaetz interrupted. “Are you suggesting none of us have non-white children?”
Richmond then acknowledged that he knows Republicans on the committee who “have Black grandchildren,” but he added, “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 am concerned about them, too. And clearly I am more concerned about him than you are.”
Gaetz then exploded in anger, telling Richmond: “You are claiming you have more concern for your family than I do? Who in the hell do you think you are? That is outrageous.”
“Was that a nerve?” Richmond responded.
“You’re damn right that was a nerve,” Gaetz said before Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the chair of the committee, called for order.
Gaetz, who called Richmond’s complaints of unnecessary amendments “insincere” and said Republicans are acting “in good faith,” also demanded that Richmond’s words be stricken from the record, to no avail.
“People are demanding action right now,” Richmond said, arguing that he does not want to see a “watered-down bill” during a national crisis.