Elected officials and activists in Massachusetts and around the country on Tuesday hailed the conviction on all counts of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the slaying of George Floyd.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “Thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice ... Because of you and because of thousands, millions of people around the world who came out for justice, your name will always be synonymous with justice,” a statement whose wording drew some flak on social media.
President Biden and Vice President Harris addressed the nation shortly after 7 p.m. Biden said Chauvin’s conviction “can be a giant step forward” for the nation in the fight against systemic racism.
Biden spoke from the White House hours after the verdict alongside Vice President Kamala Harris, with the pair calling for Congress to act swiftly to address policing reform.
“It’s not enough,” Biden said of the verdict. “We can’t stop here.”
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker issued a statement saying the verdict showed Chauvin “was not above the law.”
“Nothing can reverse the pain, suffering and agony of George Floyd’s family and friends, but this decision does make clear that [former] Officer Chauvin was not above the law. He was given a fair trial, found guilty, and he will pay a price for his actions,”
“But as the countless, tragic events that took place at the hands of law enforcement before and after George Floyd’s death make clear, there is much to do to correct, reform and reimagine the way law enforcement officers are trained, and how they and their departments are held accountable for their actions,” Baker said.
Acting Mayor Kim Janey spoke of creating a more equitable, resilient and just Boston during a City Hall appearance Tuesday evening.
“As the first Black mayor and the first woman mayor of the city of Boston, I continue to pray for the family of George Floyd,” Janey said. ”George Floyd’s name now represents the urgency of racial reckoning and police reform across our country.”
Nothing can reverse the pain, suffering and agony of George Floyd’s family and friends, but today’s decision does make clear that Officer Chauvin was not above the law.— Charlie Baker (@MassGovernor) April 20, 2021
My full statement on today's verdict: https://t.co/A9AE5theFU pic.twitter.com/hTEUhO4wWE
“George Floyd should still be alive – and we must keep fighting to dismantle systemic racism and fundamentally transform our justice system,” Massachusetts US Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted.
George Floyd should still be alive – and we must keep fighting to dismantle systemic racism and fundamentally transform our justice system.— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) April 20, 2021
“The convictions for second degree murder, third degree murder and second degree manslaughter of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, is the first step towards rebuilding trust in communities of color that disproportionately bear the consequences of police violence without a consistent or adequate legal response,” the Boston-based Lawyers for Civil Rights said in a statement.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley shared similar sentiments regarding an unjust legal system in America.
“Despite today’s guilty verdict, this system can never deliver true justice for George Floyd and his family. True justice would be George Floyd, alive today, at home with his fiancé, children, and siblings... A person’s murder should not have to garner global attention to result in accountability,” she said in a statement.
The University of Massachusetts five campuses will recommit to building an anti-racist more equitable society, according to a statement released by UMass President Martin Meehan and campus chancellors.
“...[O]ur nation is suffering from a pandemic of violence directed against Black Americans, Asian-Americans, and communities of color in general,” the statement said. “Just as our nation has mobilized to defeat the Covid 19 pandemic, we need to once and for all defeat the plague of racism and hate.”
Former president Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama said in a statement, “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.”
The Obamas also recognized 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.”
Stacey Abrams, voting rights activist and former candidate for governor of Georgia tweeted, “The evidence of our eyes met at last by accountability in the eyes of justice.
But, accountability in this case does not bring George Floyd back, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said.
“One verdict is not a solution, but it is a step forward and an opportunity for all Americans to do the hard and necessary work ahead,” Healey said in a statement Tuesday.
Floyd’s civil legal team, which settled a case with the city of Minneapolis in March for $27 million, said in a statement, “Painfully earned justice has arrived for George Floyd’s family and the community here in Minneapolis, but today’s verdict goes far beyond this city and has significant implications for the country and even the world. Justice for Black America is justice for all of America. This case is a turning point in American history for accountability of law enforcement and sends a clear message we hope is heard clearly in every city and every state.”
The jury of six white people, four Black people, and two multi-racial people delivered its verdict on the afternoon of their first full day of deliberations.
The jury began deliberating Monday after nearly a full day of closing arguments in which prosecutors argued that Chauvin squeezed the life out of Floyd last May in a way that even a child knew was wrong when he pressed his knee on a handcuffed Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
“Use your common sense. Believe your eyes. What you saw, you saw,” prosecutor Steve Schleicher said, referring to the bystander video of Floyd pinned to the pavement with Chauvin’s knee on or close to his neck for up to 9 minutes, 29 seconds, as onlookers yelled at the officer to get off.
The defense contended that the now-fired white officer acted reasonably and that the 46-year-old Floyd died of a heart condition and illegal drug use. Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson argued that Chauvin did what any reasonable police officer would have done after finding himself in a “dynamic” and “fluid” situation involving a large man struggling with three officers.
Massachusetts had braced earlier in the day for the possibility of protests.
“I think everybody in the country is anxiously awaiting that decision, and we are, too,” Baker said before the verdict.
Floyd’s death in May 2020 touched off nationwide protests against police killings of Black people, including in Massachusetts, where most demonstrations were peaceful save for one protest that was calm throughout the day but then gave way to violence and looting as the night wore on.
“Massachusetts had one bad day, all the way through all the activity of last summer,” Baker said. “Hundreds of thousands of people peacefully demonstrated here in Massachusetts. But we’re obviously going to keep talking to our colleagues in local government, and if we need to do some things to, at their request, to make sure that everybody stays calm and peaceful, we’ll do that.”
A few merchants on Boston’s Newbury Street before the verdict boarded up stores.
Businesses on Newbury Street are boarding up and shutting down early in preparation for a verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial. One employee told me she hopes people’s voices are heard but they are being careful because of the vandalism they experienced over the summer. #WBZ pic.twitter.com/BOHVgjdB86— Louisa Moller (@LouisaMoller) April 20, 2021
People walking nearby the area shortly after the verdict were both shocked and relieved.
Jamiah Tappin expected a guilty verdict because this case seemed more clear-cut in comparison to other officer-involved shootings, but still felt terrible upon analyzing Chauvin’s body language.
“He literally has no remorse or anything in his expressions,” Tappin said.“It just kind of made me pretty sad for humanity that this is even a debate.”
Others were not so confident the trial would result in a guilty verdict. Jasmina Outar said she can now breathe a little bit easier, but remains wary because Chauvin is one of few officers held accountable over the years.
“I thought they were just going to let him off like they’ve done to everybody else, so I’m very happy that he’s guilty on all three charges,” Outar said.
Across the city in Nubian Square, Will Rodriguez, 41, of Roxbury, said he expected the jury to find Chauvin guilty on only one of the three charges.
“Justice comes to those who deserve it,” Rodriguez said.
Travis Andersen and Danny McDonald of the Globe staff contributed. Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Martin Finucane can be reached at email@example.com.