“A sobering moment for our community,” is how the Archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Bernard Hebda described the situation in the wake of the guilty verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer now convicted on all counts as a result of his role in the death of George Floyd last spring.
“The decision by a jury of peers punctuates the grief that has gripped the Twin Cities in these last months,” Archbishop Hebda said in a statement released shortly after the verdict was announced on Tuesday evening, “and underscores the soul-searching that has taken place in homes, parishes, and workplaces across the country as we together confront the chasm that exists between the brokenness of our world and the harmony and fraternity that our Creator intends for all his children.”
“We hold up once again the image of the Crucified Christ, whose resurrection gives witness to the healing power of forgiveness, compassion, reconciliation, and peace. It is our shared brotherhood with Jesus that calls us to a deeper respect for all human life,” Archbishop Hebda went on to say. “We ask him to bring healing into our communities, comfort to the family of George Floyd and all who mourn, and satisfaction to those who thirst for justice.”
“May the many reminders of the Lord’s loving closeness even in challenging times inspire us to treat each other with unfailing respect,” Archbishop Hebda said, “to work non-violently for the common good and to be instruments of reconciliation.”
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The jury deliberated about 10 hours before coming back with their unanimous findings. The National Fraternal Order of Police says the justice system worked as it should, that the trial was fair and the process was served.
With tears rolling down his cheeks, the Rev. Al Sharpton urged the family and friends of George Floyd to lock arms and pray in thanksgiving for the work of the jury, police officers and attorneys that resulted in the guilty verdict. “Dear God, we thank you for giving us the strength to stand together,” said the long-time civil rights campaigner.
Shortly after the verdict was read and confirmed by Judge Peter Cahill, U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris called the representative for the Floyd family, lawyer Ben Crump. They expressed the hope that something good could come of the tragic death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. President Biden said this is just the first shot at dealing with generational systemic racism, and he hoped that Congress would pass, so he could sign the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act.
“No one should be above the law and today’s verdict sends that message,” said President Biden later to a national audience. He said that more must be done, “this takes acknowledging and confronting systemic racism in policing and more broadly.” The president added that it is his hope and prayer that George Floyd’s legacy will be historic, to change the world and to bring more peace, hoping to unite Americans and make certain there is no safe harbor for hate.
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Mn) posted a statement saying that passing legislation to reform policing is the urgent task before lawmakers. She promised, “we renew our commitment towards securing [Floyd’s] legacy – not just as the man whose death shined a light on the undeniable stain of racism on our country – but as the man whose memory inspires us to build a more equitable system.”
Across from the court house and by Cup Foods in the Minneapolis neighborhood where Floyd died, the people gathered to protest turned to shouting “justice!” dancing and hymn singing. George Floyd’s girlfriend told a scrum of reporters that the verdict that the verdict shows that change is coming, so watch out.
Philonise Floyd told reporters, “We have to protest, because it seems that this is a never ending cycle,” adding that he’s “now fighting for everyone around the world….today, we are able to breathe again!” His vow to continue fighting on behalf of his brother and others was echoed by Hollywood stars such as Viola Davis and Kerry Washington.
But Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) faced criticism for her remarks: “So again, thank you George Floyd for sacrificing your life for justice. For being there to call out to your mom, how heartbreaking was that, call out for your mom, ‘I can’t breathe.'” She added that his death served as the inspiration for thousands around the world to come out and protest in favor of Justice.
In contrast, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) promised to continue to work so to ensure that George Floyd’s tragic death will not be in vain, “However, we should not mistake a guilty verdict in this case as evidence that the persistent problem of police misconduct has been solved or that the divide between law enforcement and so many of the communities they serve has been bridged.”
Darnella Frazier was just 17 years old when she recorded the 8 minute and 46 second video of the police interaction that lead to the death of George Floyd. In a Facebook post, she thanked God, writing that justice has been served. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison that the trial might not have happened if Frazier had performed simple, yet profound acts of courage, by bearing witness and pressing record on their cell phones.
Derek Chauvin faces at least 12 and a half years and up to 75 years in prison. Sentencing has not been scheduled. It is expected appeals will be filed, whilst the prosecution is expected to seek “aggravated sentence” due to the “particular cruelty” shown to George Floyd. The other 3 Minneapolis city police officers who were present and are charged in the death of George Floyd will be tried, starting August 23.
Tragically, the Community Justice Action Fund reported, “Just as Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, there are reports that a 15-year old girl was killed by Columbus, OH police moments before the verdict was read. Police violence is gun violence, and we need action nationwide.”