WASHINGTON: The conviction of ex-Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin can be a “giant step forward” in the US’ struggle with systemic racism, President Joe Biden said Tuesday.
Chauvin was convicted by a jury just hours earlier of murder and manslaughter for the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, whose grisly death was captured on a bystander’s smartphone camera. The video elicited worldwide outrage and months of protests in the US against police brutality targeting Black Americans and communities of color.
“It was a murder in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism the vice president just referred to,” Biden said at the White House after Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black woman to hold the office, addressed the nation.
“Systemic racism is a stain on our nation’s soul — the knee on the neck of justice for Black Americans, the profound fear and trauma, the pain, the exhaustion that Black and brown Americans experience every single day,” added Biden.
Shortly before Biden spoke, Harris said Black men have been treated “throughout the course of our history as less than human.”
“Black men are fathers, and brothers, and sons, and uncles, and grandfathers, and friends and neighbors,” she said. “Their lives must be valued in our education system, in our health care system, in our housing system, in our nation. Full stop.”
Chauvin pinned Floyd to the ground with his knee fixed firmly on his neck for over nine minutes amid pleas from Floyd that he could not breathe, and desperate cries for his mother.
Chauvin now faces the potential of spending decades behind bars ahead of his sentencing in two months.
Biden said his conviction sends an unequivocal message that “no one should be above the law,” hailing it as a potential “moment of significant change.”
“But it’s not enough. It can’t stop here. In order to deliver real change and reform, we can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will ever occur again,” the president said.