Grassley defends protests, calls death of George Floyd 'unconscionable'

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, arrives for a Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, March 20, 2020
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, arrives for a Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, March 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Sen. Chuck Grassley defended peaceful protest, but is withholding judgment on legislation that would create uniform standards for police practices.

The nation is facing three crises at the moment, Grassley said Wednesday, including the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the economy, and civil unrest stemming from the death of George Floyd while in police custody.

The best way to address this first two challenges is to turn around the economy and get the virus under control, he said.

“But we don’t want to forget the civil liberties of our Americans that were violated probably by more than just George Floyd’s death,” Grassley said. “Every American deserves to be treated with compassion and respect. It’s those values that will help our country.”

Referring to demonstrations in Washington and cities across the nation, Grassley said he supports peaceful protests, but doesn’t believe people who want to “take advantage of peaceful protests for their own looting and burning and whatever goals they have” should be tolerated.

“Peaceful protests are very much a constitutional right that needs to be protected and should be allowed and should not be impeded,” he said during his weekly conference call with Iowa reporters.

A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley said he wants to hear testimony on a proposal for applying law enforcement protocols uniformly across the nation’s law enforcement agencies. The legislation would put conditions on federal Justice Assistance Grant funds.


His hesitation is in “setting too many standards that would have law enforcement become totally federalized,” Grassley said. “Law enforcement is so much different in Wyoming than it is in New York.”

He also declined to comment on specifics, such as police use of chokeholds.

“But I watched the same film you watched of Floyd being murdered and choked to death,” Grassley said. “It’s unconscionable the way that he was brought to his death.”

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