Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on three counts in the May 2020 killing of George Floyd: second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. As many activists and leaders across the country breathe a sigh of relief and elation that justice was done and the verdict will not spur more civil unrest, leaders in the Bay Area have issued reaction statements of their own.
Chauvin still faces sentencing, and the presumed sentence for the most grievous charge, second-degree murder, is 12 and a half years, according to Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines. But as the New York Times notes, the state is pushing for a longer sentence given several special circumstances in Floyd's death.
As Oscar Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson, tells the SF Chronicle today, "It’s a partial victory for the African American community. Now we'll just have to wait and see what the sentence will be." Johnson knows all too well that an officer can still get off with a light sentence, as former BART Police officer Johannes Mehserle did after killing her son in 2009 — he served only 11 months.
The Chauvin verdict, as some commentators are saying, serves as a counterpoint more than two decades later to the mid-1990s verdicts in the Rodney King excessive force trial of four Los Angeles police officers, and the 1995 O.J. Simpson verdict, reactions to which split along racial lines. There appears to be broad public support for the conviction of Chauvin — though lord knows what they'll say on Fox News in the coming days.
Governor Gavin Newsom said today, "George Floyd would still be alive if he looked like me. That must change. No conviction can repair the harm done to the Floyd family, but today’s verdict provides accountability."
SF Mayor London Breed said in a statement:
"This verdict does not bring back the life of George Floyd. It can’t replace the years of his life that were robbed from him, nor the life experiences and memories that would have been made with his friends and family. What this verdict does reflect is that the tide is turning in this country, although still too slowly, toward accountability and justice.
Almost eleven months ago, the world watched as Officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on the back of George Floyd’s neck. He kept it there for eight minutes and 46 seconds, but it felt like an eternity. The systemic injustice from hundreds of years of racism and mistreatment of Black Americans was put into plain view on video, and the country and the world erupted in protest.
While we’re now months removed from the height of those protests, the need for action is as critical as ever. This is about more than prosecuting the officer who killed George Floyd, though that is an important step. It’s about fundamentally restructuring how policing is done to move away from the use of excessive force. It’s about shifting responses to non-violent calls away from an automatic police response to something better equipped to handle the situation. It’s about reinvesting in communities in which years of systematic disinvestment has made it nearly impossible for people to thrive. It’s about changing who we are as a country...
While this tragedy can never be undone, what we can do is finally make real change in the name of George Floyd.”
Senator Alex Padilla issued his own statement, saying:
"Today’s verdict represents the promise of our justice system: that power cannot protect an offender, and that every victim deserves justice, regardless of the color of their skin. Too often, communities of color have been denied this promise.
Police officers’ disproportionate use of force against people of color is a stain on our nation. The list of Black and Brown Americans killed by law enforcement and denied accountability in court is abhorrently long.
I stand with the community of Minneapolis, the Black Lives Matter movement, and millions of Americans in mourning the murder of George Floyd by Officer Derek Chauvin. And I know that true justice will require work far beyond this verdict. Accountability for police officers should be an expectation, not an aberration. It is past time to reform our justice system to recognize at every level that Black lives matter.”
Top image: People celebrate the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trail at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue on April 20, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Chauvin, a former Minneapolis, Minnesota Police officer was found guilty of all three charges in the murder of George Floyd. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)