President Joe Biden called the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd was a “step forward” to ending systemic racism in the country.
Joined by Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House, Biden said, “Systemic racism is a stain on the nation’s soul, the knee on the neck of justice for Black Americans, profound fear and trauma, the pain and exhaustion that Black and brown Americans experience every single day.”
In brief remarks earlier, Harris said, “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.”
Biden and Harris each called on the Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would, among other things, ban federal law enforcement from using chokeholds and restrict other practices. The House passed the legislation in February, but it is awaiting a vote in the Senate.
Noting that Harris had a hand in writing the legislation when she was in the Senate, Biden said, “It shouldn’t take a whole year to get this done.”
“I can’t breathe — those were George Floyd’s last words. We can’t let those words die with him. We have to keep hearing those words. We must not turn away,” Biden said.
Biden called Floyd’s family shortly after the verdict was announced. Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was found guilty on all three counts, including second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
“Nothing can ever bring their brother, their father back, but this can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America,” Biden said.
But he said that the guilty verdict was something that was “much too rare,” and that it still took a convergence of factors, including an eyewitness recording of Floyd’s killing and police officials willing testify against one of their own, for it to happen.
“No one is above the law, and today’s verdict sends that message, but it is not enough.”
Biden also recounted talking with Floyd’s daughter, Gianna, at his funeral last year, and speaking to her again today.
He said he told her, “Daddy did change the world. Let that be his legacy.”
Some of Biden’s predecessors released statements praising the verdict.
Barack Obama, in a statement with Michelle Obama, said that “if we’re being honest with ourselves, we know that true justice is about much more than a single verdict in a single trial.
“True justice requires that we come to terms with the fact that Black Americans are treated differently, every day.”
Bill Clinton said that the just “made the right decision” in the conviction.
“His tragic death, and the evidence at the trial, made painfully clear that we must do much better in recruiting, training and holding law enforcement accountable to the communities they serve,” Clinton said. “The failure to do so continues to plague America, as we have seen in recent days.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got some criticism for saying of the verdict, “Thank you George Floyd for sacrificing your life for justice, for being there to call out to your mom, call out to your mom, ‘I can’t breathe.’” Pelosi later wrote on Twitter, “George Floyd should be alive today. His family’s calls for justice for his murder were heard around the world. He did not die in vain. We must make sure other families don’t suffer the same racism, violence & pain, and we must enact the George Floyd #JusticeInPolicing Act.”
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