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‘The work continues’: Black Americans stress that police reform is still needed

Adam Gabbatt
·5-min read

Prominent Black Americans expressed relief after white former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd, but warned that police reform, and justice for other victims of police brutality, are still necessary.

While Chauvin was found guilty of all the charges he faced – second- and third-degree murder, and manslaughter – by the jury in Minneapolis, the families of other Black Americans killed by police in recent years have yet to see their killers jailed, or even face a jury.

Former president Barack Obama was among those to call for change, tweeting: “Today, a jury did the right thing. But true justice requires much more.”

Related: ‘I cried so hard’: teen who filmed killing of George Floyd celebrates guilty verdict

Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr and CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr Center for nonviolent social change, was among those to mark the guilty verdict.

“Oh, that George Floyd were still alive. But I’m thankful for accountability. The work continues. Justice is a continuum. And America must bend with the moral arc of the universe, which bends toward justice,” King wrote on Twitter.

She added: “God knew just how much we could bear. This is a turning point. Let’s continue to correct everything that stands against love. That is true #justice.”

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King’s call for justice was echoed by Jamaal Bowman, a prominent progressive Black congressman for New York.

“We’ve known Chauvin was guilty since the second we saw him murder George Floyd on film – but we also know of the racism inherent in our carceral and policing systems. This verdict doesn’t change that racism, or the work ahead needed to transform those systems to serve us,” Bowman said.

He added: “We need justice for Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor[.] And everyone else we’ve lost.”

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In their statement, Barack and Michelle Obama said they “stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all those who are committed to guaranteeing every American the full measure of justice that George and so many others have been denied”.

“True justice requires that we come to terms with the fact that Black Americans are treated differently, every day,” the Obamas said.

“It requires us to recognize that millions of our friends, family, and fellow citizens live in fear that their next encounter with law enforcement could be their last. And it requires us to do the sometimes thankless, often difficult, but always necessary work of making the America we know more like the America we believe in.”

Black Lives Matter demonstrators gather in Times Square in New York City after the Derek Chauvin verdict.
Black Lives Matter demonstrators gather in Times Square in New York City after the Derek Chauvin verdict. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

For Derecka Purnell, a human rights lawyer, organizer, and author of the upcoming book Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests and the Pursuit of Freedom, the conviction of Chauvin did not represent true justice.

“I cannot emphasize enough that convictions are not justice for George Floyd,” Purnell wrote on Twitter.

“We will never know because justice requires the participation of the people impacted by it. The dead cannot participate. There is relief, punishment, but not ‘justice’.”

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Cliff Albright, founder of the Black Voters Matter organization which seeks to enhance Black voter engagement, pointed out the lengths it took for George Floyd’s killer to be found guilty, including the bystander’s video and the ensuing historic summer of protests.

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Keith Boykin, founder of the National Black Justice Coalition civil rights organization, pointed out the importance of bystanders on the scene filming Chauvin’s actions.

Boykin posted the press report Minneapolis police initially sent out in relation to Floyd’s death, which said: “Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. [Floyd] was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.”

Boykin said:

“This fabricated police story might have become the official account of George Floyd’s death if concerned citizens had not intervened and recorded the police.”

Color of Change, a civil rights organization founded by Van Jones and James Rucker, echoed the message of others that the guilty verdict brought a sense of relief, rather than any cause for celebration.

People pose for pictures in front of a mural for George Floyd in Minneapolis.
People pose for pictures in front of a mural for George Floyd in Minneapolis. Photograph: Morry Gash/AP

“We’re relieved this Hennepin county jury has held Derek Chauvin accountable for the murder of George Floyd. We’re holding the Floyd family in our thoughts right now,” Color of Change tweeted, adding: “This doesn’t get George Floyd back.”

The organization joined calls for serious reform of police departments in the US.

“We need to divest from the police and invest in communities because even guilty convictions don’t get Black community members back.

“This fight for accountability is about more than a cop or a police department. It’s about upending a system that fails to keep Black people safe.”

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