In comments made just hours after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, President Biden said that the incident exposed the “stain” of “systemic racism” in America for the world to see.
“It was a murder in the full light of day and it ripped the blinders off the whole world to see,” Biden said during the Tuesday evening address. “Systemic racism is a stain on our nation’s soul.”
Riots broke out in Minneapolis and across several American cities after footage of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes went viral, garnering international attention.
Chauvin was found guilty of second- and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter, in a verdict delivered earlier Tuesday.
In a press conference shortly after the verdict was announced, Floyd’s legal team and members of his family called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
“This is not a case against every officer,” attorney Chris Stewart said at a press conference. “My life was saved by two law-enforcement officers years ago, so I will never throw every cop under the bus. But we will put more cops in jail when you kill someone for no reason, just because they’re black.”
Stewart added, “We can find a unifying purpose between law enforcement and the African-American community — by changes, starting with the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act.”
The bill, sponsored by Representative Karen Bass (D., Calif.), seeks to lower the standard needed to prosecute and convict police officers of alleged misconduct, and would eliminate officers’ qualified immunity that shields them from civil suits. The Democrat-controlled House passed the legislation 236–181 in June 2020, but was not advanced in the Senate, where Republicans held a majority until January 2021.
Biden joined the Floyd legal team in urging Congress to pass the Democrats’ criminal-justice reform bill in his Tuesday night address.
“I assured them we’re going to continue to fight for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act so I can sign the law as quickly as possible,” Biden said of his discussions with Floyd’s family.
Attorney Tony Romanucci as well as Floyd’s brother, Rodney Floyd, joined Stewart’s call for the bill to be passed.
“Make no mistake: we are not done,” Romanucci said. The Floyd police-reform bill “must pass the Senate. We now know that today, police can and will be held accountable for needless death.”
Rodney Floyd stated that “for George, this fight is not over. We’re going to stand here together, we’re going to try to get this George Floyd act passed. . . . We’re going to keep pressure on the Senate.”
The Senate is currently tied 50–50 between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote. It is unclear if Democrats will be able to garner support from ten Republican senators needed to pass the legislation without threat of a filibuster.