Joe Biden says Derek Chauvin conviction over George Floyd killing can be ‘giant step forward’ against systemic racism

Tristan Kirk
·4 min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

President Joe Biden hailed the guilty verdicts against police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd as a “giant step forward” for America in the fight against systemic racism.

Chauvin, a former Minneapolis officer, was convicted last night of murder and manslaughter for kneeling on the neck of Mr Floyd, an unarmed black man, for more than nine minutes during an arrest.

The 46-year-old’s grieving family called the landmark verdict a “turning point in history” and received a call from Mr Biden, who promised to tackle racism across the US.

However, celebrations were muted by news that a black teenage girl had been shot dead by a police officer in Ohio, just two hours before Chauvin’s murder conviction was confirmed.

Mr Biden, addressing the nation from the White House alongside vice president Kamala Harris, welcomed the trial verdict but acknowledged: “It’s not enough.” “Systemic racism is a stain on our nation’s soul, the knee on the neck of justice for black Americans,” he said, highlighting the “profound fear and trauma, the pain and the exhaustion that black and brown Americans experience every single day. This can be a giant step forward in the march towards justice in America”.

The conviction of Chauvin is the first time in Minnesota’s history that a white police officer has been convicted over the death of a black suspect.

Mr Floyd was being arrested on May 25 last year on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 note at a grocery store when he was pinned down by police with Chauvin’s knee on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds.

Harrowing video footage captured the killing, as Mr Floyd called out “I can’t breathe” 27 times and Chauvin refused to relent to allow medical assistance.

Cheering crowds outside the courthouse and at the spot where Mr Floyd died greeted the verdicts, while one of Mr Floyd’s brothers, Philonise, tearfully said: “I feel relieved today I finally have the opportunity for hopefully getting some sleep. Today we are able to breathe again.”

Shortly after Judge Peter Cahill announced the verdict against Chauvin, President Biden called the Floyd family from the Oval Office to say: “Nothing is going to make it all better but at least now there is some justice.”

He added the promise: “We’re going to get a lot more done. We’re going to do a lot. We’re going to stay at it until we get it done.”

Getty Images
Getty Images

In his address to the nation, Mr Biden said it was only the combination of global protests following the death, shocking videos taken of the murder and the courage of other police officers who testified against Chauvin that brought justice.

“It was a murder in the full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see,” he said.

“In order to deliver real change and reform, we can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will occur and can happen again. This takes acknowledging and confronting head-on systemic racism.” Mr Biden and Ms Harris, who said black Americans have been treated throughout the country’s history as “less than human”, have thrown their weight behind the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a piece of legislation before Congress which could overhaul the use of police force.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and former US president Barack Obama were among the world leaders who welcomed the jury’s verdict.

Chauvin, sacked as a police officer following the death of Mr Floyd as Black Lives Matter protests swept the globe, was handcuffed and remanded in custody immediately after being found guilty of murder.

He faces up to 40 years in prison at sentencing in eight weeks’ time, with state prosecutors expected to argue for significantly more than the 12-and-a-half year benchmark for second-degree murder in Minnesota guidelines.

Chauvin, currently being held at maximum-security Oak Park Heights prison 25 miles outside Minneapolis, is also expected to appeal his convictions, arguing his trial was unfair due to the timing and location, as well as media coverage.

He is also likely to argue jurors were tainted by a $27 million (£19 million) payout to Mr Floyd’s family, controversially announced just before the trial began.

During Chauvin’s trial, community tensions were enflamed when black motorist Daunte Wright, 20, was shot dead by Minneapolis police officer Kimberley Potter last week.

She claims she drew her gun by accident, believing it was a Taser, and now faces a second-degree manslaughter charge.

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