President Joe Biden weighed in on former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s conviction in the murder of George Floyd on Tuesday evening, saying the guilty verdict is only one step in America’s continued march towards equality.
“This can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America,” Biden said from the White House. “But let's also be clear that such a verdict is also much too rare. For so many people, it seems like it took a unique and extraordinary convergence of factors.”
Chauvin faced three counts for the May 2020 killing of Floyd, including second-degree intentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. A jury found him guilty on all counts early Tuesday afternoon.
Biden commended the officers who testified against Chauvin during his trial, saying it proved the majority of men and women who serve as law enforcement “serve their communities honorably.”
“But those few who fail to meet that standard must be held accountable, and they were today. One was,” he said. “No one should be above the law, and today’s verdict sends that message.
“But it’s not enough,” Biden continued. “We can’t stop here. In order to deliver real change and reform, we can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will ever happen or occur again.”
Both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris stressed the need to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which aims in part to combat racial discrimination and excessice force in policing.
“A measure of justice isn't the same as equal justice,” Harris said. “This verdict brings us a step closer, and the fact is, we still have work to do. We still must reform the system.”
The president also reflected on a conversation he had with Floyd’s young daughter, Gianna, earlier in the day, saying he told her: “Daddy did change the world.”
“The guilty verdict does not bring back George,” Biden said. “But, to the family’s pain, they’re finding purpose, so George’s legacy will not be just about his death, but about what we must do in his memory.”
Soon after the verdict was read, the president picked up the phone to call Floyd’s family. In a video shared to Twitter by Ben Crump, an attorney for the family, Biden said that while nothing could fully ease their suffering, “at least, God, now there’s justice.”
“You are an incredible family. I wish I was there just to put my arms around you,” Biden said, adding: “We’re all so relieved, not just one verdict, but all three. Guilty on all three counts.”
In the same call, Vice President Harris praised the family for their “courage” and “strength” over the course of the past year.
Floyd’s family held a press conference following the call with Biden and Harris, chanting George Floyd’s name with raised fists as they spoke of a father, brother, cousin, and son whose life was cut short far too soon.
“I’m gonna put up a fight every day, because I'm not just fighting for George any more, I'm fighting for everybody around this world,” Philonise Floyd, one of George Floyd’s brothers, said in part.
“Today, we are able to breathe again,” he continued, later saying: “We have to always understand that we have to march. We will have to do this for life. We have to protest, because it seems like this is a never ending cycle.”
Several of the family members also called for Congress to pass the George Floyd Act.
“We need change in this broken system,” Floyd’s nephew, Brandon Williams, said. “It was built to oppress us. It was built against us. Oftentimes, we see people who are supposed to — supposed to — protect and serve… they do the total opposite.”
Leaders from across the country — and across the political aisle — similarly applauded the jury for their careful consideration, with many echoing both Biden and the Floyd family in saying the true work on criminal justice reform and racial equity had just begun.
“Today, a jury did the right thing. But true justice requires much more,” a statement from former president Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, read in part.
“True just requires that we come to terms with the fact that Black Americans are treated differently, every day,” the statement continued. “It requires us to recognize that millions of our friends, family, and fellow citizens live in fear that their next encounter with law enforcement could be their last. And it requires us to do the sometimes thankless, often difficult, but always necessary work of making the America we know more like the America we believe in.”
Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the only Black Republican in the Senate, said there was “no question in [his] mind that the jury reached the right verdict,” adding: “While this outcome should give us renewed confidence in the integrity of our justice system, we know there is more work to be done to ensure the bad apples do not define all officers the vast majority of whom put on the uniform each day with integrity and servant hearts.”
“I urge people across this nation to peacefully make their voices heard and engage in conversations that will continue to move us toward a more just America. I believe in the goodness of our country; we can and will do better,” he concluded.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said the verdict delivered “accountability for Derek Chauvin, but not justice for George Floyd.”
“Real justice for him and too many others can only happen when we build a nation that fundamentally respects the human dignity of every person,” Sanders tweeted. “The trauma and tragedy of George Floyd’s murder must never leave us. It was a manifestation of a system that callously devalues the lives of Black people.”
"This guilty verdict serves as an official proclamation of what so many of us have known for nearly a year: George Floyd was murdered by an officer who was sworn to protect and serve,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement. "However, we should not mistake a guilty verdict in this case as evidence that the persistent problem of police misconduct has been solved or that the divide between law enforcement and so many of the communities they serve has been bridged."
"We must remain diligent in our efforts to bring meaningful change to police departments across the country," he added. "The Senate will continue that work as we strive to ensure George Floyd’s tragic death will not be in vain."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called the verdict "a step in the right direction for justice" at a press conference with members of Democratic House leadership and the Congressional Black Caucus.
“This is just the first step,” CBC chair Joyce Beatty (D-OH) said. “We know that there are still the mothers, the families, the children who are shedding tears today because a verdict will not bring back their family members.”
“We are hopeful today will be the catalyst to turn the pain, agony, the justice delayed into action,” Beatty added.
Reactions to the conclusion of Chauvin’s trial spanned the globe, with world leaders offering their thoughts to the Floyd family.
“I was appalled by the death of George Floyd and welcome this verdict,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted. “My thoughts tonight are with George Floyd’s family and friends.”
In Minneapolis, throngs of people gathered across the city to hear the verdict. When it was read, the crowds erupted in a mix of cheers and tears.
Outside of the Cup Foods where George Floyd was murdered last year, bystanders began throwing dollar bills in celebration. Some people brought flowers, laying them on the ground where Floyd took his final breaths. Others prayed next to paintings and images of Floyd, honoring a life cut short.
Many seemed to be in a state of shock, saying they couldn't believe a police officer was convicted for murdering a Black person.
But the overwhelming feeling across the city was one of joy. Chants of "Justice!" and "Black lives matter" rang out across Minneapolis, from George Floyd Square to the steps of the Hennepin County Courthouse.