Lawmakers react to Chauvin verdict with relief, calls for policing reform
As the verdicts were being read in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin on Tuesday evening in Minneapolis, 56 Black members of Congress huddled together on Capitol Hill holding their collective breath.
The Congressional Black Caucus, gathered to watch the verdicts handed down, then came to the cameras, with Chair Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, telling reporters that while the group "certainly" agrees with the guilty verdicts, this is "just a first step."
"We will fight continuously for all of those who died or have been injured senselessly by law enforcement," Beatty said. "We know that there are still the mothers, the families, the children who are shedding tears today, because the verdict will not bring back their family."
Rep. Cori Bush, a Missouri Democrat, lamented that these situations had become so commonplace, saying stopping them is her goal as a lawmaker.
"This was accountability, but it's not yet justice," Bush said. "Justice for us is saving lives."
Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., said that it is crucial that Congress pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, saying that since his death, many other Americans have died at the hands of law enforcement.
"So now we have to focus on transforming policing in the United States since George Floyd's murder of a year ago -- over 100 people have died at the hands of police," Bass said. "As a matter of fact, since the trial started on March 29, 63 people have died at the hands of police. In my opinion, this is (a) human rights issue in the United States of America "
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which among other provisions bans the use of police chokeholds, passed in the House by a vote of 220-212 last month but has since stalled in the Senate. Shortly after the Floyd verdict was handed down, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced that the committee would hold a hearing next month addressing police reform.
Appearing with the Congressional Black Caucus members, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi drew some online criticism for saying Floyd had sacrificed his life.
"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 to call out to your mom," she said. "I can't grip it, but because of you, and because of thousands, millions of people around the world. It came out for justice, Your name will always be synonymous with justice."
Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only Black Republican in the Senate, told a reporter he was "absolutely" relieved, and said that the verdicts strengthened his belief in the system.
"I think our justice system is getting more just, I'm thankful for the verdict and certainly thought it was murder and so that last, my first thought or shortly thereafter and believe that this reinforces the fact that while we all may need to grow our confidence in parts of the system," Scott said. "The truth of the matter is that this reinforces a commitment that we can have confidence that the justice system is becoming more just."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised the decision in a tweet, and also called for police reform.
"However, a guilty verdict doesn’t mean the persistent problem of police misconduct is solved," Schumer said. "We'll keep working for meaningful change."