Former president Barack Obama said the jury in Derek Chauvin’s trial for the murder of George Floyd “did the right thing” in finding the former Minneapolis police officer guilty on all three counts against him.
“But true justice requires much more,” he said in a joint statement with former First Lady Michelle Obama following the verdict on Tuesday.
He called for “concrete reforms” to policing and for the elimination of racial bias from the nation’s criminal justice system.
“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,” he said.
Now-former Minneapolis police officer Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He could face up to 40 years in prison.
The verdict followed three weeks of testimony and nine hours of deliberation nearly one year after Mr Floyd’s death on 25 May, 2020, captured in painful video that galvanised an international protest movement to hold police accountable for the killings of Black people
A 12-person jury heard from 45 witnesses in total, including 38 from the prosecution and seven from the defence.
Mr Obama wrote: 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?
He added 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,” he said. “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.”
The former president said the verdict was “far from a sufficient” step on the “road to justice”.
“We cannot rest,” he said. “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.”
His calls follow the demands from members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Democratic lawmakers, echoing demands from organisers and activists who have pushed for decades for significant reforms to policing and measures to address systemic crises in the nation’s criminal justice system.
Immediately following the verdict on Tuesday, Black lawmakers at the Capitol said the verdict was accountability but not justice.
“Justice for us is saving lives,” said US Rep Cori Bush.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, the state’s first Black attorney general, also called for “true justice” after the verdict was announced.
Mr Ellison said that justice should include a “social transformation that says no one is above the law and no one is below it,” with a legacy of “enduring, systemic, societal change.”
He said this generation’s work is to transform policing into “one that is empathetic, compassionate and affirming” following a jury’s decision that has created a “powerful opening for new relationships and to shed old practices.”
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