President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris said the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial can be a moment of “significant change” for the U.S., even as work remains on reforming the nation’s law-enforcement system and confronting racism.
Chauvin on Tuesday was convicted on three counts of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, who who was pinned to the pavement with a knee on his neck last year in a case that set off a furious reexamination of racism and policing in the U.S.
Biden, speaking at the White House, said he’d spoken with Floyd’s family. “Nothing can ever bring their brother back,” he said. “But this can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America.”
“This can be a moment of significant change,” Biden said.
Biden and Harris watched the verdict with staff in the private dining room at the White House. Biden spoke with Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz after the announcement of the verdict, the White House said, and Biden, Harris and first lady Jill Biden all spoke with Floyd’s brother Philonise from the Oval Office.
“A measure of justice isn’t the same as equal justice,” Harris said in her remarks. “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 and vice president both called on Congress to pass a bill named for Floyd. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would ban chokeholds and some no-knock warrants, as well as change what’s known as qualified immunity for law enforcement — something that would make pursuing claims of police misconduct easier. The bill passed the House last month.
Prosecutors at Chauvin’s trial argued that the white former officer squeezed the life out of Floyd, who is Black, last May when he knelt on his neck for 9 1/2 minutes. The defense said Chauvin acted reasonably and that a heart condition and illegal drug use led to Floyd’s death.
Protests swept the U.S. after Floyd’s death, and sparked a nationwide reckoning over race. Biden, who has pledged to fight racism in policing, said in January: “Those eight minutes and 46 seconds that took George Floyd’s life opened the eyes of millions of Americans and millions of people around the world.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.