On Tuesday, Derek Chauvin, the white former Minneapolis police officer who murdered George Floyd, a Black man, was found guilty on all three charges brought against him in relation to the May 2020 murder. Chauvin, 45, dug his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes even as Floyd pleaded for his life.
The mixed-race Minneapolis jury comprising six Black or multi-racial persons and six Whites found Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, second-degree manslaughter, and third-degree murder.
In a joint statement posted to Twitter, former U.S. President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama applauded the verdict but cautioned against equating this “necessary step on the road to progress” to “true justice”. The Obamas said “true justice is about much more than a single verdict in a single trial” and called for the elimination of “racial bias in our criminal justice system.”
Before the delivery of the Chauvin verdict, President Joe Biden had said he “praying the verdict is the right verdict,” adding that the evidence against Chauvin was “overwhelming, in my view,” CNN reports. After the verdict, Biden labelled the former police officer’s killing of Floyd a murder committed “in the full light of day” and “ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see.”
According to CNN, Chauvin faces “up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, up to 25 years for third-degree murder and up to 10 years for second-degree manslaughter.”
Barack Obama, the 44th U.S. President and first Black person to be elected to the United States’ highest political office, served two four-year terms from 2009 to 2017.
The Obamas’ Twitter statement reads:
“Today, a jury did the right thing. For almost a year, George Floyd’s death under the knee of a police officer has reverberated around the world – inspiring murals and marches, sparking conversations in living rooms and new legislation. But a more basic question has always remained: would justice be done?
“In this case, at least, we have our answer. But 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. 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.
“While today’s verdict may have been a necessary step on the road to progress, it was far from a sufficient one. We cannot rest. We will need to follow through with the concrete reforms that will reduce and ultimately eliminate racial bias in our criminal justice system. We will need to redouble efforts to expand economic opportunity for those communities that have been too long marginalized.
“And as we continue the fight, we can draw strength from the millions of people — especially young people – who have marched and protested and spoken up over the last year, shining a light on inequity and calling for change. Justice is closer today not simply because of this verdict, but because of their work.
“Michelle and I send our prayers to the Floyd family in the hope that they may find peace. And we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all those who are committed to guaranteeing every American the full measure of justice that George and so many others have been denied.”
President Obama tweeted:
Floyd’s murder sparked massive protests in the United States and around world, led or inspired by the Black Lives Matter BLM civil rights movement.
Today, a jury did the right thing. But true justice requires much more. Michelle and I send our prayers to the Floyd family, and we stand with all those who are committed to guaranteeing every American the full measure of justice that George and so many others have been denied. pic.twitter.com/mihZQHqACV— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) April 20, 2021
Amid calls for racial justice and police accountability, former U.S. President Donald Trump, rightwing pundits, white supremacist groups and federal policing agencies often repeatedly portrayed BLM and left-wing protesters as “violent anarchists” posing an existential threat to police officers, law-abiding citizens, federal property, and private businesses.
A report released by the US Crisis Monitor in September painted a different picture. It found that more than “more than 93%” of the protests led by BLM in the U.S., most of which were related to Floyd’s murder, involved “non-violent demonstrators”.
The US Crisis Monitor, a joint project between the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) and the Bridging Divides Initiative (BDI) at Princeton University, was launched in July 2020 to provide “the public with real-time data and analysis on political violence and demonstrations in the United States for the first time”. The project “aims to establish an evidence base from which to identify risks, hotspots, and available resources to empower local communities in times of crisis.”
ACLED, a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, collects, analyzes and maps data on political violence and protests from around the world. The organization analyzed more than 7,750 BLM protests that took place in all 50 U.S. states and Washington D.C. between May 26 and August 22 in the wake of Floyd’s murder. According to ACLED:
Since 26 May, the day after George Floyd was killed by police, ACLED records over 7,750 demonstrations associated with the BLM movement across more than 2,440 locations in all 50 states and DC… The vast majority of these events – more than 93% – involve non-violent demonstrators.
ACLED is funded by the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations at the United States Department of State, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the German Federal Foreign Office, the Tableau Foundation, the International Organization for Migration, and The University of Texas at Austin.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said the Chauvin verdict was “a measure of justice” that “isn’t the same as equal justice.” She added:
This verdict brings us a step closer, and the fact is, we still have work to do. We still must reform the system.
Chauvin’s senseless murder of Floyd moved federal leaders in Washington to serious action in the form of the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,” which passed in the House of Representatives in March. The bill seeks to “hold police accountable, end racial profiling, change the culture of law enforcement, empower our communities, and build trust between law enforcement and our communities by addressing systemic racism and bias to help save lives.”