Members of the Congressional Black Caucus said on Tuesday that the nation must still deal with the problem of racism in policing, even as they expressed deep relief after a Minneapolis jury convicted former officer Derek Chauvin of all charges in the murder of George Floyd.
“We certainly agree with guilty on all charges. But we want our message to be very clear that this is just the first step,” said Rep. Joyce Beatty, Ohio Democrat and chairwoman of the caucus, in front of the Capitol minutes after the jury’s verdict was read.
Ms. Beatty said the group of Black lawmakers will continue pressing for police reforms in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House along party lines in March but remains stuck in the evenly-split Senate.
The bill would create a national database of police misconduct and, among other steps, would require federal law enforcement officials to use body and dash cameras. It would ban federal officers from using chokeholds or “no-knock” warrants
“We will fight continuously for all of those who died or have been injured senselessly by law enforcement,” she 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 your family.”
The reaction to the verdict was emotional, and one of relief that Mr. Chauvin was not exonerated, which would have been seen by the Democrats as an injustice and likely would have sparked emotional and violent protests across the country.
“Thank God, the jury validated what we saw,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The California Democrats said she had spoken to Mr. Floyd’s family about an hour before the verdict and thanked them for the “dignity” of the way they handled the trial.
Rep. Gwenn Moore, Wisconsin Democrat, watched the video of the verdict on a staff member’s phone. She closed her eyes and looked toward the heavens.
“I was not confident that there would be a guilty verdict, at least on the murder charges,” she said. “We, Black mothers like me, have lived this night, every time our sons walk out the door to go get an iced tea, or to drive somewhere. Maybe this will set a new tone, a new standard.”
Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Massachusetts Democrat, was asked if she viewed America differently than before the verdict.
“I’m still processing at all,” she said. “We’ve been bracing for a very different outcome. So in this moment, I’m exhaling.”