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George Floyd's uncle advocates for the passage of a Medical Civil Rights Act

: [POST-BROADCAST CLARIFICATION: Under the Medical Civil Rights Act discussed in this story, a police officer would be required to summon medical assistance if the officer observes that a person is in medical crisis or the person says they are in medical crisis. The bill is currently being introduced on a state by state basis although proponents hope to introduce it at the federal level in the future.]


Three years ago this week, a store clerk thought George Floyd tried to use a fake $20 bill to buy something. Hours later, he was dead after one officer put his full body weight on Floyd's neck and three other officers who were there refused to intervene or get medical help. The horrifying episode put a worldwide spotlight on police violence in the U.S. and renewed calls for reform. One idea would make it a legal right for a person to receive medical care during a police interaction when someone is obviously in crisis or says they are. Selwyn Jones is George Floyd's uncle and is one of the people who's been pushing for this through his Hope929 foundation, and he is with us now to tell us more.

Mr. Jones, welcome. Thank you so much for talking with us.

SELWYN JONES: Thank you, ma'am.

MARTIN: Well, the first thing I just wanted to ask is, how are you doing?

JONES: You know, dear, I - this isn't something that will ever leave me because I watched my big sister's baby boy horrifically murdered in the middle of the street by hatred, power and control. I started moving forward on the 26, when I found out last year. And I've been advocating and trying to make a difference in other people's lives so no one else will have to go through that horrific pain that we had to go through. And it hasn't stopped, but I sure hope one day that it will.

MARTIN: And when you say that you hope that it will stop, what are you referring to there?

JONES: Police brutality or racism in a whole. I'm tired of going to funerals. I really am. But it's something that I have to do to show people that I am in this to win it. I'm in this to fight forever.

MARTIN: So as we mentioned, you've been working to support federal passage of something called the Medical Civil Rights bill that would establish the statutory right - the legal right - to medical care during any police interaction where the person communicates that they're in a health crisis. Do you remember - like, how did the idea for this come about?

JONES: You know, I never really thought about it. It never really dawned on me. But when we mention it to people and people go, isn't there a prevention measure now? No, there isn't. Robert and Leonore Dluhy in 2015 - they decided that they would do their part and - to make a difference in this world. And they created the Medical Civil Rights bill, which basically prohibits a police officer from doing the thing that they did to George Floyd, Eric Garner. Because as soon as a suspect yells (ph) I'm hurt, I need medical assistance, they have to, in a minimal amount of time, get them handled and assist medical assistance to them.

MARTIN: One of the things that we see - you know, after your nephew died, there were demonstrations, like, not just all over the country, but all over the world. I just wondered if you feel like progress is still being made toward the things that you care about or not.

JONES: I think that every day we wake up, we have a chance and a choice. And there's a lot of people that make the choices to not give us a better chance. And that's just about being a person of color. And for the first time, I think in my life, we actually have a shot to make a difference.

MARTIN: Do you feel you're making progress?

JONES: I feel every day I wake up, I can look in the mirror and say to my nephew, my mama, my son, and say, I'm doing my part. I was sitting in a parking lot at a motel that we own, and I would watch my little 4-year-old ride his go cart around on the little track we made. And that was my destiny. That's what I was going to do until I die - watch that little boy grow. And I had to stop watching him ride that go cart because I had to start protecting everybody else's lives. So I think that winners don't quit, and quitters don't win. And whether I'm making a difference or not, I'm not going to quit.

MARTIN: Selwyn Jones is George Floyd's uncle, and he's the co-founder of the Hope929 foundation.

Mr. Jones, thank you so much for talking with us.

JONES: God bless you, sister. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOE WONG'S "WE CRY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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