Following the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd, President Biden commented that the tragedy exposed the “stain” of “systemic racism” on America’s soul.
“It was a murder in the full light of day and it ripped the blinders off the whole world to see,” Biden intoned in his Tuesday evening address. “Systemic racism is a stain on our nation’s soul.”
“Nothing can ever bring their brother and father back,” Biden commented, “but this can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America.” Biden had previously stated that he was “praying” for the “right verdict” in the case.
Chauvin was on trial following the arrest and death of Floyd last year. The former officer apparently knelt on his neck and back in excess of nine minutes which allegedly contributed to his death. Floyd also reportedly had multiple drugs in his system and heart problems that purportedly contributed to his death. Riots broke out across the nation in response to the incident.
(Video Credit: CNBC Television)
Chauvin was found guilty on Tuesday of second-degree unintentional murder and third-degree murder as well as second-degree manslaughter.
Biden called for “confronting head-on systemic racism and the racial disparities that exist in policing and our criminal justice system.” He pleaded for protesters to avoid violence: “There are those who will seek to exploit the raw emotions in the moment — agitators and extremists who have no interest in social justice,” the president warned. “We can’t let them succeed.”
Biden praised the “brave young woman” who videoed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck. He commended the police officers who testified for the prosecution “instead of closing ranks.”
“For so many,” Biden stated, “it feels like it took all of that for the judicial system to deliver basic accountability.”
Biden’s comments elicited support from Black Lives Matter and other social justice groups.
“President Biden on Tuesday praised the verdict in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, but called it a ‘too rare’ step to deliver ‘basic accountability’ for Black Americans who have been killed during interactions with the police,” the Democratic Coalition Super PAC tweeted in reaction, adding, “#BlackLivesMatter.”
Vice President Kamala Harris appeared with Biden and expressed the “relief” she claimed the nation felt over justice being served. She also noted that the conviction wouldn’t “take away the pain” of Floyd’s murder.
“A measure of justice is not the same as equal justice. This verdict brings us a step closer. We still have work to do. We still have to reform the system,” she proclaimed.
Harris vowed to work with the president to urge the Senate to pass “long overdue” legislation on police accountability. She once again stated that black men had been treated as “less than humans” throughout U.S. history, a reference she has frequently used.
“Here is the truth about racial injustice: It is not just a Black America problem or a ‘people of color’ problem. It is a problem for every American,” she lectured.
Vice Pres. Kamala Harris: “Today we feel a sigh of relief. Still, it cannot take away the pain. A measure of justice isn’t the same as equal justice.”https://t.co/Cy93DJTjz7 pic.twitter.com/5t7Ml8CXDR
— ABC News (@ABC) April 20, 2021
Floyd’s legal team and his family held a press conference after the verdict was announced Tuesday, calling on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
“This is not a case against every officer,” attorney Chris Stewart said during the press conference. “My life was saved by two law-enforcement officers years ago, so I will never throw every cop under the bus. But we will put more cops in jail when you kill someone for no reason, just because they’re black.”
He continued: “We can find a unifying purpose between law enforcement and the African-American community — by changes, starting with the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act.”
(Video: The Hill)
The bill is sponsored by Representative Karen Bass (D-CA) and it promotes lowering the standard needed to prosecute and convict police officers of alleged misconduct. It would also eliminate officers’ qualified immunity. House Democrats passed the legislation 236–181 in June of 2020. But the bill never advanced in the Senate.
Biden also encouraged Congress to pass the Democrats’ criminal-justice reform bill during his Tuesday address.
“I assured them we’re going to continue to fight for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act so I can sign the law as quickly as possible,” Biden vowed.
Attorney Tony Romanucci and Floyd’s brother, Rodney Floyd, also called for the bill to be passed: “Make no mistake: we are not done,” Romanucci declared. The Floyd police-reform bill “must pass the Senate. We now know that today, police can and will be held accountable for needless death.”
Rodney Floyd said that “for George, this fight is not over. We’re going to stand here together, we’re going to try to get this George Floyd act passed… We’re going to keep pressure on the Senate.”
His sentiments echoed those of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.