What is the '1870' Pin? Meaning of State of the Union Badge Explained

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and other Democrats wore buttons with "1870" on them during the State of the Union address as a stand against police brutality and a call for meaningful reform.

The number refers to the year of the first known instance of police killing a free, unarmed Black person in the United States, when a Philadelphia officer chased and shot Henry Truman on March 31, 1870.

The officer who killed Truman chased him "into an alley and when Mr. Truman asked what he had done wrong, the officer shot him," Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, who designed and distributed the pins, said in a video posted on Twitter.

The buttons were intended to demonstrate how "153 years later, nothing has changed", according to a card that was attached to the pins. The death of Tyre Nichols after a brutal beating by Memphis police last month shows how "history has repeated itself once again—police kill an unarmed Black man, the nation mourns, and nothing changes," it said.

Watson Coleman told Newsweek: "In 1870, Philadelphia police murdered Henry Truman, an unarmed Black man. In 2022, American police killed 1176 people. That's the highest number on record. With the recent murder of Tyre Nichols, history has repeated itself once again."

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) wears 1870 pin
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) wears a button with "1870" on it as she attends the State of the Union address on February 7, 2023 in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Jacquelyn Martin/Pool-Getty Images

She added that "instead of marching toward justice, our nation seems to be running away from it. I refuse to continue moving in the wrong direction, and so do my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus. We are tired of mourning and demand change now."

She said she and her colleagues wore the buttons to the State of the Union address "to reflect on the wounds of our past, start urgent conversations in the present, and recommit to a fairer, safer future for Black Americans."

A spokesperson for the congresswoman told Newsweek that about 80 buttons were distributed, most of which were given to members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Nichols' killing has renewed calls for Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, and his mother and stepfather, RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, were among those seated with first lady Jill Biden during Biden's address on Tuesday.

"There's no words to describe the heartache and grief of losing a child, but imagine if you lost that child at the hands of the law," the president said after introducing the couple.

"I know most cops and their families are good, decent, honorable people. They risk their lives every time they put that shield on," Biden said. "But what happened to Tyre in Memphis happens too often. We have to do better."

He said police officers or police departments "must be held accountable" when they violate the public's trust, and called on Congress to "finish the job on police reform."

"With the support of the families of victims, civil rights groups, and law enforcement, I signed an executive order for all federal officers, banning chokeholds, restricting no-knock warrants, and other key elements of the George Floyd Act," he said.

"Let's commit ourselves to make the words of Tyre's mother come true. Something good must come from this. And all of us in this chamber, we need to rise to this moment."

Update 2/8/23, 8:50 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with comment from Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman.