President Joe Biden on Tuesday called for more action to address racial discrimination in policing and the criminal justice system, in response to the guilty verdict of the former police officer who killed George Floyd in Minneapolis last May.
“Nothing can ever bring their brother, their father back,” Biden said of the Floyd family. “But this can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America.”
His remarks were in response to the guilty verdict delivered by the jury late Tuesday afternoon in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who killed Floyd. The jury, which reached its verdict after more than 10 hours of deliberations over two days, found Chauvin guilty on all three counts of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who also spoke at the White House, urged Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The criminal justice reform bill has passed in the House but not the Senate. Biden emphasized the need to take action and called on Americans not to forget Floyd’s last words: “I can’t breathe.”
“This can be a moment of significant change,” he said.
The president pointed to the number of factors — someone to record the killing, a nearly 10-minute-long video, police officers testifying against one of their own, among others — that it took to reach a decision that he said was “much too rare.”
“For so many people, it seems like it took a unique and extraordinary convergence of factors … it seems like it took all of that for the judicial system to deliver a just, just basic accountability,” he said.
After the verdict, Biden called the Floyd family and said he was “relieved” by the outcome, according to a video posted on Twitter by attorney Ben Crump. Harris and first lady Jill Biden were also on the call.
“Nothing is going to make it all better, but at least now there’s some justice,” Biden said on the phone. Related to police reform, including the bill named after Floyd, he added: “We’re going to do a lot. We’re going to stay at it till we get it done.”
In his remarks, Biden recounted meeting Floyd’s daughter, Gianna, at Floyd’s funeral, where she told him, “Daddy changed the world.”
“I told her this afternoon, ‘Daddy did change the world.’ Let that be his legacy,” he said.
The decision came after a 16-day trial that dominated news networks and captivated the nation’s attention as it faces a reckoning over race and policing. While the trial was going on, a police officer shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minn., a Minneapolis suburb.
Earlier Tuesday, while the jury was sequestered, Biden told reporters in the Oval Office he was “praying the verdict is the right verdict, which is — I think it’s overwhelming, in my view.”
In an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash before the verdict, Harris said there would still be pain, even if the jury found Chauvin guilty.
“Let’s say there is a guilty verdict on the highest charge, it will not take away the pain of the Floyd family. It will not take away the pain of the communities, all communities, regardless of their color or geographic location, that felt sadness and anger in what they witnessed in that video,” she said, referencing footage of Floyd’s death presented by the prosecution.
Chauvin’s sentencing is expected to take place in eight weeks.