Civil rights leaders were rejoicing that Derek Chauvin was convicted on all counts for killing George Floyd. But their collective sigh of relief was also accompanied by a cautious asterisk as they reminded people that the fight for equality and justice is far from over.
A post-verdict press conference led by the Rev. Al Sharpton and including Floyd’s family was one of overall happiness because, as attorney L. Chris Stewart said, police officers convicted of killing Black people just “doesn’t happen.” But a familiar refrain among those who spoke included renewing calls for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that would dramatically overhaul the nation’s system of law enforcement as police killings of unarmed Black men continue with no end in sight.
Rashad Robinson, President of Color Of Change, looked toward the future to build off any momentum Tuesday’s verdict may have provided the country’s social justice movement.
“Now we must look at the road ahead. Our fight for racial justice continues as we fight to fundamentally alter a system that continues to threaten, harm, and kill Black people,” Robinson said in a statement emailed to NewsOne shortly after the verdict was read.
The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation called the verdict “a small incremental step toward accountability” but also made itself “clear that this still does not bring our loved ones back.”
The Rev. Jesse Jackson credited Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison‘s office for its successful prosecution of Chauvin and called for an end to “Legal lynching.”
Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO, addressed law enforcement, in particular, when reacting to the verdict.
“Police are here to protect, not lynch,” Johnson said in an email. “We will not rest until all in our community have the right to breathe. The chapter on Derrick Chauvin may be closed, but the fight for police accountability and respect for Black lives is far from over.”
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents Floyd’s family, called the verdict “Painfully earned justice” and suggested Chauvin’s conviction was a prelude for the same legal outcomes for the three cops and their upcoming aiding and abetting trials.
“We have not forgotten that the other three officers who played their own roles in the death of George Floyd must still be held accountable for their actions, as well,” Crump said in a brief statement.
Karissa Lewis, the National Field Director of the Movement for Black Lives, said the “guilty verdict doesn’t fix an irredeemable, racist system of policing rooted in white supremacy that will continue working against and harming Black people just as designed.” She said this moment should be used to keep pushing to defund the police.
“It’s past time to divest from an institution that consistently proves itself to be deadly, and invest in a system of safety that protects us all,” Lewis said. “Our calls for defunding the police will continue to grow louder with each police murder.”
Whether or not Chauvin’s guilty verdict sets a legal precedent moving forward, the National Civil Rights Museum said there is still much work to be done.
“We are not okay,” the museum said in a statement following the verdict. “We need much healing from George Floyd’s death and the thousands of others who have died without just cause.”
People For the American Way President Ben Jealous called Chauvin’s guilt verdict “a day of deep gratitude for the accountability.” He said it was seemingly the first time video footage helped convict a police officer killing an unarmed Black man.
“For decades, since the beating of Rodney King, even video evidence of those attacks has failed to bring accountability,” Jealous added. “That changed today, but this work doesn’t stop today.”
Our Black Party responded to the guilty verdict in part by bringing attention to a criminal justice system that it called broken.
“The criminal justice system was built on the premise of white supremacy and still operates in the same manner,” the Black Party said in part of a statement emailed to NewsOne. “One conviction does not erase that reality. To defeat white supremacy, we must continue to fight with our bodies, our voices, our votes, and a unified demand for policy change.”
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