Berkeley leaders and community members joined the nation in responding to the guilty verdict handed down Tuesday afternoon for Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on and killed George Floyd in May 2020 and reinvigorated scrutiny toward police brutality throughout the United States.
A jury in Minneapolis found Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. On May 25, 2020, Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for over 9 minutes as bystanders captured the scene on video and pleaded with Chauvin to spare Floyd’s life. Chauvin remained on Floyd’s neck for 3 minutes after Floyd took his last breath.
Thousands of Berkeley High and local students, community members and political leaders protested against police killings and brutality after Floyd’s murder last summer and marched for the Black Lives Matter movement amid the pandemic. The Berkeley City Council and the Berkeley Unified School District also passed resolutions in support of Black Lives Matter, and outlined several policy changes to enact in response.
Here’s what local leaders in Berkeley had to say following the verdict, which was handed down just after 4 p.m. local time in Minneapolis:
Mayor Jesse Arreguín tweeted, “For so many years, justice has been denied when African Americans have died at the hands of law enforcement. Today some measure of justice has finally been delivered. But we still have a long way to go.” In additional tweets, he talked about decades of over-policing and “under-resourcing” for communities of color and mentioned Berkeley’s changes in limiting low-level police traffic stops.
East Bay Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) introduced a racial healing commission last summer in the wake of Floyd’s death to reckon with 400 years of systemic racism. She tweeted, “Real justice would mean George Floyd is with us today. For his family, his daughter Gianna, and every person who marched for Black Lives last year, my heart is heavy and with all of you during this moment in history.”
She said the millions who protested throughout the country for police accountability can breathe a little easier today and added, “Nothing will erase the trauma Black folks have endured for generations, but we can see the sparks of hope for a future where our children and our children’s children will live in a safer, more just world.”
Berkeley City Council members Ben Bartlett,Sophie Hahn, Rashi Kesarwani and Rigel Robinson all responded to the verdict on social media, sharing their own messages or words from others. Bartlett’s message was brief — “So much for Chauvinism,” he tweeted, following another tweet saying just “Guilty.”
I’m so grateful for justice done in this trial. It’s a start, but it doesn’t bring back George Floyd – a father, brother, son, partner, and friend – and it doesn’t address the overarching problems with policing in America. Proud to represent a city deeply committed to this work. pic.twitter.com/rkVMw7P0up— Sophie Hahn (@SophieHahnBerk) April 20, 2021
UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ sent a lengthy message to the Cal community, sharing remarks on the verdict and saying the university is committed to “continuing our work to create an anti-racist university where everyone feels a true sense of belonging, and a complete absence of bias and discrimination.” She also urged the community to observe vigils, protests or demonstrations peacefully in the coming days.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris held a news conference shortly after Chauvin’s verdict was announced.
“It was a murder in the full light of day and it ripped the blinders off. … Systemic racism is a stain on the nation’s soul,” Biden said, crediting the teenage girl who filmed Floyd’s murder, the jurors who carried out their civic duty under “extraordinary justice,” and people who endured the “traumatic and exhausting” summer amid constant, daily experiences of racism.
He said many police officers are honorable, but those who are not need to be held accountable for their actions, and praised his appointments to the federal criminal justice system.
“Black Americans, and Black men in particular, have been treated throughout the course of our country as less than human. Black men are fathers and brothers and sons … their lives must be valued,” Harris said. “We’re all a part of George Floyd’s legacy and our job now is to honor it,” Harris said.
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