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Biden: Chauvin verdict a 'giant step forward in the march toward justice'

Activist Nylisha stands over the spot where George Floyd died at Chicago Avenue and 38th Street in Minneapolis on Tuesday after former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on all counts in Floyd's death. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI
Activist Nylisha stands over the spot where George Floyd died at Chicago Avenue and 38th Street in Minneapolis on Tuesday after former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on all counts in Floyd's death. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo

April 20 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris called for the passage of a sweeping police reform bill on Tuesday after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on all counts in the murder of George Floyd.

In remarks from the White House, Biden said the verdicts were a "giant step forward in the march toward justice in America" as Chauvin -- who knelt on Floyd's neck for more than 9 minutes during an arrest at a convenience store on May 25, 2020 -- was found guilty of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on Tuesday.

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"Today the jury of Minnesota found the former police officer, Derek Chauvin, guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd last May," Biden said. "It was a murder in the full light of day and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism ... a stain on our nation's soul, the knee on the neck of justice for Black Americans."

Biden also commended the officers who were witnesses for the prosecution during the trial for testifying against Chauvin, instead of "closing ranks." He said that more must be done to reform policing in the United States.

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"Most men and women who wear the badge serve their communities honorably. But those few who fail to meet that standard must be held accountable and they were today. One was. No one should be above the law and today's verdict sends that message," he said. "But it's not enough, it 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 ever happen or occur again."

Harris, the first Black and first female U.S. vice president, said the United States has "a long history of systemic racism" and that much work remains.

"Black Americans and Black men, in particular, have been treated, throughout the course of history as less than human. Black men are fathers and brothers and sons and uncles and grandfathers and friends and neighbors," she said. "Their lives must be valued in our education system, in our healthcare system in our housing system, in our economic system, in our criminal justice system, in our nation, full stop."

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Harris, who co-authored a sweeping police reform bill that aims to better hold law enforcement accountable -- the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 -- called for its passage in the Senate. It was approved by the House last month.

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"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," she said. "This verdict brings us a step closer and the fact is we still have work to do, we still must reform the system."

Speaking after the verdict, Floyd's brother Philonise Floyd said that "justice for George means freedom for all."

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He thanked protesters and activists for supporting his brother's cause and said he's received support from people worldwide who told him "we won't be able to breathe until you're able to breathe."

"Rev. Al [Sharpton] always told me, 'we got to keep fighting,'" he said. "I'm going to put up a fight every day, because I'm not just fighting for George anymore. I'm fighting for everybody around this world."

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump shared a video of Biden and Harris calling Floyd's family after the verdict.

Biden is heard reminding them of Floyd's daughter's comment that her father was going to "change the world" and pledging to "get a lot of work done" to implement police reform.



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"Painfully earned justice has arrived for George Floyd's family and the community here in Minneapolis, but today's verdict goes far beyond this city and has significant implications for the country and even the world," Crump said in a statement. "Justice for Black America is justice for all of America. This case is a turning point in American history for accountability of law enforcement and sends a clear message we hope is heard clearly in every city and every state."

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison similarly said that Tuesday's verdict was a first step, adding that justice implies "true restoration."

"Since the investigation and prosecution of this case began last May, everyone involved has pursued one goal -- justice. We pursued justice wherever it led," he said.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said that "accountability in the courtroom is only the first step," alluding to the police killing of Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in the state on April 11.

"True justice for George only comes through real, systemic change to prevent this from happening again. And the tragic death of Daunte Wright this week serves as a heartbreaking reminder that we still have so much more work to do to get there," Walz said.

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Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey tweeted that jurors "refused to look away" and affirmed that Floyd "should still be here today."

"George Floyd came to Minneapolis to better his life. But ultimately his life will have bettered our city. The jury joined in a shared conviction that has animated Minneapolis for the last 11 months," Frey wrote.

Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama said in a statement that "Minneapolis did the right thing."

"True justice requires that we come to terms with the fact that Black Americans are treated differently, every day. 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," they wrote.

Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, declared that while justice was served on Tuesday there must be police reform.

"While justice landed Derek Chauvin behind bars for murdering George Floyd, no amount of justice will bring Gianna's father back," Johnson said in a statement. "The same way a reasonable police officer would never suffocate an unarmed man to death, a reasonable justice system would recognize its roots in white supremacy and end qualified immunity. Police are here to protect, not lynch. We will not rest until all in our community have the right to breathe."

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The American Civil Liberties Union noted that Wright was killed less than 10 miles away from where the trial was taking place as a result of the "racist system of policing," calling for justice for other Black victims of police violence.

"George Floyd should not have died under an officer's knee -- he should still be alive today. So should Daunte Wright, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor and countless other Black people killed by police," the ACLU tweeted. "True justice for George Floyd means renewing our conviction to create a world where police do not have the opportunity to use violence to target Black people."

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted that he's thankful for the verdict and said Congress will "keep working for meaningful change."

"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," Schumer said. "We must remain diligent in our efforts to bring meaningful change to police departments across the country. The Senate will continue that work as we strive to ensure George Floyd's tragic death will not be in vain."

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South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the lone Black Republican lawmaker in the chamber, described Tuesday as a "monumental day in many ways" in an interview with CNN.

"I'm thankful for the verdict and certainly thought it was murder ... and believe that this reinforces the fact that while we all may need to grow our confidence in parts of the system, the truth of the matter is that this reinforces a commitment that we have confidence that the justice system is becoming more just."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., thanked Floyd for "sacrificing your life for justice."

"Because of you and because of thousands, millions of people around the world who came out for justice, your name will always be synonymous with justice," she tweeted.

Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, said she hopes the verdict will serve as a catalyst for passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

"Justice has prevailed but that's not always the case. So, while I am relieved that Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of murdering George Floyd, I will continue to say the names and fight for all those who have died or been injured senselessly by law enforcement," Beatty, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus said in a statement. "Breonna Taylor, Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, Andre Hill, Casey Goodson, Jr., Tamir Rice and George Floyd should be alive and no verdict will bring them back or undo the unimaginable heartache and loss their family, friends and our communities have had to endure."

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Crowds gathered outside of both the courthouse and the scene where Floyd was killed chanted "justice" and "Black lives matter" after the verdict was announced.

Several states braced for the reaction to the verdict as Illinois and Washington, D.C., activated the National Guard on Monday and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler declared a state of emergency Tuesday, adding that the National Guard was on standby.

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