The co-founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream called on Congress to end qualified immunity for law enforcement officers and overhaul of police standards nationwide, during an event on Capitol Hill on Thursday.
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are both progressive activists and co-chairs of the Campaign to End Qualified Immunity. The group, which describes itself as a "coalition of business leaders, creative artists, athletes, advocates and lawyers," argues that an overhaul of immunity protections is necessary to ensure accountability following the death of George Floyd and other instances of police brutality.
"Ending qualified immunity will bring accountability for police and justice for the victims whose rights have been violated. We know that the Senate right now is involved in negotiations and we are here to tell them that ending qualified immunity must be part of the agreement," Greenfield said in a statement.
Qualified immunity, which shields police officers from civil lawsuits, has been a major source of contention as lawmakers hold bipartisan talks on a police reform bill. Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have argued that an end to qualified immunity would make law enforcement more difficult and undermine recruitment efforts.
The House passed the Democrat-backed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in a party-line vote in March. The issue of qualified immunity is seen as the chief obstacle to a police reform package’s passage in the Senate.
The Ben & Jerry’s co-founders urged Congress to act ahead of the first anniversary of Floyd’s death in late May.
"The people who get abused by the police don’t look like me. They’re usually poor and disproportionately black," Cohen said. "But it is only when people who look like me stand up and demand it that we will finally eliminate qualified immunity and cops will be held accountable."
In April, Ben & Jerry’s backed calls to defund the police in response to the fatal police-involved shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, in Brooklyn, Minnesota.