President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris praised the guilty verdict delivered Tuesday by a Minneapolis jury in the murder trial of former Police Officer Derek Chauvin in a joint appearance at the White House.
“Today, a jury in Minnesota found former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd last May. It was a murder in the light of day,” Biden said, that had revealed the extent of systemic racism in America.
Biden said that he told the family of George Floyd that “nothing can ever bring their brother, their father back, but this can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America.”
Shortly after 4 p.m. local time, District Court Judge Peter Cahill read the guilty verdict on charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin was taken away from the courtroom in handcuffs, a sight rarely seen following the trial of a police officer.
“Most men and women who wear the badge serve their communities honorably,” Biden said of police officers, “but those few who fail to meet that standard must be held accountable, and they were today — one was.”
Echoing themes he put forth during his presidential campaign, Biden said that overcoming racial bias in policing required “acknowledging and confronting — head-on — systemic racism.”
The president urged the U.S. Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and send the bill to his desk.
“It shouldn’t take a whole year to get this done,” Biden said of the legislation.
Harris, one of the sponsors of the bill, spoke before Biden.
“Last summer, together with Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Karen Bass, I introduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,” Harris said. “This bill would hold law enforcement accountable and help build trust between law enforcement and our communities. This bill is part of George Floyd’s legacy. The president and I will continue to urge the Senate to pass this legislation, not as a panacea for every problem, but as a start.
“America has a long history of systemic racism. Black Americans and Black men in particular have been treated throughout the course of our history as less than human,” she continued.
“Because of smartphones, so many Americans have now seen the racial injustice that Black Americans have known for generations.”
The White House said in a statement that the president and vice president watched the verdicts being read with staff in the Private Dining Room.
Shortly after the verdicts were read, Biden and Harris spoke via phone with Floyd’s family.
“Nothing is going to make it all better, but at least now there’s some justice and, you know, I think of [Floyd’s daughter] Gianna’s comment, ‘My dad is going to change the world, he’s going to start to change it now,’” Biden, who was put on speakerphone, told members of the family gathered at the courthouse in Minneapolis. “You’ve been incredible. You’re an incredible family. I wish I were there just to put my arms around you.”
The vice president then spoke to the family.
“I’m just so thankful to the entire family,” Harris said. “Your courage, your commitment, your strength has been a strength for so many and this is a day for justice in America.”
Both Biden and Harris also told the Floyd family that they hoped the verdict would prove the start of a series of actions to reform the criminal justice system.
“We’re going to get a lot more done,” Biden told the Floyd family. “We’re going to stay at it until we get it done.”
Attorney Ben Crump, who was standing with members of the Floyd family during the phone call, told the president he hoped that the verdict would help spur the Senate passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in March.
“You got it, pal,” Biden responded. “That and a lot more.”
During his address to the nation, Biden made clear that the verdict in Floyd’s trial was not the final word when it comes to rectifying racial injustice.
“We can’t leave this moment, or look away thinking our work is done,” Biden said.
“We have to listen. ‘I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.’ Those were George Floyd’s last words,” Biden said. “We can’t let those words die with him. We have to keep hearing those words. We must not turn away.”
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