Congressional Black Caucus members wore ‘1870’ pins to honor Black victims of police killings

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey distributed about 30 pins to commemorate the year that Henry Truman, a Black man, was shot to death by a Philadelphia police officer.

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Members of the Congressional Black Caucus honored the first documented police officer killing of an unarmed, free Black person in the United States by donning “1870” pins during the president’s State of the Union address Tuesday.

Democratic Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey distributed about 30 pins to commemorate the year that Henry Truman, a Black man, was shot to death by a Philadelphia police officer, Bloomberg reported.

Tuesday night’s address came as protests and investigations continued after the deadly Jan. 7 police assault of Tyre Nichols, which, according to Watson Coleman, “echoes countless other police killings of unarmed Black Americans.” 

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris (left) met in the Oval Office last week with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Rep. Steven Horsford (right) and Sen. Raphael Warnock, to discuss law enforcement. Caucus members encouraged the administration to push for national law enforcement reform. Days later, several members wore “1870” pins at the State of the Union address in honor of unarmed Black men killed by police. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Nichols, an unarmed Black man, passed away three days after being beaten by Memphis police during a traffic stop.

“I mourn each and every life that has been stolen from us, but I have grown tired of mourning,” Watson Coleman said in a video on Twitter in which she called for police reform. “Mourning alone will bring us no closer to justice.”

RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, Nichols’ mother and stepfather, attended the address at the invitation of Rep. Steven Horsford, a Nevada Democrat and head of the Congressional Black Caucus, The Philadelphia Inquirer previously reported.

According to CBS News, President Joe Biden quoted Nichols’ mother Tuesday night, sharing that she expressed to him her son “was a beautiful soul, and something good will come from this.”

“As many of you personally know, there are no words to describe the heartache of losing a child,” Biden said, CBS reported, “but imagine, imagine if you lost that child at the hands of the law.”

In addition to Nichols’ parents, Michael Brown Sr., the father of the Missouri teen killed by a police officer, and Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who died after a police officer in New York put him in an illegal chokehold, also attended the SOTU. Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, who passed away from asphyxiation after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled in his neck, was also there, Bloomberg reported.

The number of people killed by law enforcement in the U.S. last year was at least 1,176, the highest number since at least 2013, Bloomberg reported, citing the nonprofit group Mapping Police Violence.

According to CBS, Biden, who advocated for police reform in his address, said that what happened to Nichols in Memphis occurs far too frequently. 

“We have to do better,” Biden added. “Give law enforcement the real training they need. Hold them to higher standards. Help them succeed in keeping us safe.”

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