WRIC: Virginia leaders react to Derek Chauvin trial verdict


Tuesday afternoon a jury found Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, guilty of the murder of George Floyd. Politicians and community leaders from across Virginia voiced their reactions to the news.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam took time to speak to reporters outside of the state capitol building. He also released a statement in response to the verdict.

“The life of George Floyd matters. He should still be alive today, and no courtroom decision can bring him back. But this decision is an important step. It is a step towards accountability for police. It is a step towards justice—for George Floyd, for his family, for his community, and for our entire country.

I pray that today brings some small comfort to the family of George Floyd and all who loved him. May we honor his legacy by continuing on this march towards justice and meaningful change. We have a lot of work ahead.”

Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring issued a response following Chauvin’s conviction.

“George Floyd should still be alive, and while no verdict will bring him back to his family, these verdicts provide a measure of justice and accountability for a heartless and senseless murder,” said Attorney General Herring.

Herring went on to recollect images from the video of Floyd’s death. He says that the guilty conviction should inspire people to continue “building a society in which Black lives matter and all Americans can live without fearing the police or discrimination.”

“For too long, our country has had two different systems of justice – one for white Americans and one for Black Americans and Americans of color,” Herring said. “And while today’s verdict shows that sometimes the system can work, too often Black and brown Americans are killed at the hands of police officers. We cannot continue in this way.”

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney tweeted that the jury’s verdict showed “Black lives matter.”

“I stand with my fellow Richmonders committed to changing the unjust systems that have harmed Black Americans & working to realize a better future for our city, commonwealth and country,” he said.

“I stand with my fellow Richmonders committed to changing the unjust systems that have harmed Black Americans & working to realize a better future for our city, commonwealth and country,” he said.

Stoney said if anyone wants to express their feelings about the verdict, he asks they do so in a peaceful manner. Even before the verdict was read, the Richmond Police Department sent out a statement asking for people to protest safely.

Susan Swecker, chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia, said while the verdict offers some justice, it does not make up for George Floyd’s death. She added similar incidents, such as Lt. Caron Nazario’s traffic stop, that keep happening show the system is still broken and there is more work to be done.

“In the months since George Floyd’s murder, Virginians have been protesting, organizing, and advocating for racial justice like never before,” she said. “That work has led to tangible results in our commonwealth, and Virginia is taking real steps towards equality. This verdict, while just, will not bring George Floyd back. The verdict today is a continual reminder that the fight for justice must continue. Our thoughts are with George Floyd’s family and loved ones during this sensitive time and with the families of many others who have yet to see justice.”

The Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus released a statement saying justice is being served for George Floyd and his family.

“While a ‘guilty’ verdict in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin is nothing to celebrate, Senate Democrats know the justice being served for George Floyd, his family, and communities all across the United States and world will bring closure for this case but also the turning of a page in our country’s history. The death of George Floyd sparked desperate cries and long-overdue demands for change and for justice to be added to our nation’s systems. The trial of Derek Chauvin is not simply a trial of a former officer, but it is a trial of our values as a nation. Senate Democrats applaud the jury for the hard work that they had to undergo during the case.”

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said members are “relieved” that a step has been taken towards justice for the murder of George Floyd. They preface the statement by saying “This has been an incredibly painful and emotional time.”

VLBC looks back on mourning Floyd last summer and joining calls for accountability and change to “the broken systems that continue to devalue Black lives.”

“Our prayers are with the Floyd family and the many families mourning loved ones who were lost to police brutality and racist violence. We hope that this decision today brings them some comfort and peace.

We cannot stop here. In a truly just world, George Floyd would still be alive today. We still have so much work to do. We must continue addressing police brutality and systemic racism within the criminal justice system and throughout our society. We must create even more change to prevent such tragedies from occurring in the first place. 

So while this verdict serves as a step forward in combating systemic racism, the work continues to ensure that the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice both for our children and for the generations after them.”

Sen. Tim Kaine posted a statement on social media, saying while justice was served, there is still much work to be done.

Sen. Mark Warner also took to Twitter to release a statement on the conviction. Warner started by saying that Floyd’s life matter and that justice had been served. His statement, similarly to Northam’s, said “nothing will bring him back.”

He goes on to say that while nothing will bring him back, he wants to see meaningful action towards police reform. Warner ended his tweet by calling for the passing of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

Rep. Donald McEachin (D) said even though the verdic showed the system worked this time, George Floyd still lost his life at the hands of law enforcement, like many other Black Americans before him.

“We must commit to changing our policing to ensure these kinds of incidents do not happen again, are not continual headlines and that families are not left shocked and grieving when a loved one doesn’t come home,” McEachin tweeted. “And that is how we honor George Floyd’s life and countless others.”

Rep. Bobby Scott released a statement calling the verdict just and saying it is just a start to addressing needs for change.

“While nothing will bring George Floyd back to his family and loved ones, the verdict was just. Derek Chauvin was afforded the due process that George Floyd was denied and found guilty by a jury of his peers,” Scott said. “This verdict is a start, but it does not absolve Congress and the federal government of our responsibility to reform policing across the country, and it is a reminder of the need for the Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.”

Del. Danica Roem (D) said while no verdict will bring back Floyd, the verdict is “at least an act of accountability.”

Virginia House Democratic Majority Leader Charniele Herring and House Democratic Caucus Chair Rip Sullivan said while justice has been served, there is still a long road ahead to eliminate inequality and injustice.

“Floyd’s death reawakened our communities to the need for urgent, effective reforms to ensure greater accountability for wrongdoing by those in uniform,” the legislators said in a joint statement. “Each person deserves to be treated with the same level of respect by police—regardless of race, ethnicity, or background—while also knowing that law enforcement cares about them and their community.”

Democratic candidate for governor Jennifer Carroll Foy said there will never be full justice for Floyd until the policing system is changed.

“Today’s verdict will never bring George Floyd back into the arms of his family and loved ones. We cannot forget that we will never get true, full justice, until we take action to change the system that took Mr. Floyd’s life, and impacted countless other Black Americans, like Lt. Caron Nazario and Donovan Lynch here in Virginia,” Carroll Foy said. “Too many of us have been hurt and harmed when the cameras have been off or pointed away.”

A Republican running for governor, state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield), addressed the verdict during a 2021 GOP candidate roundup in King William County on Tuesday.

“Friends, today’s verdict makes me sick,” Chase told the crowd that gathered at Fontainebleau Farm for the event. “I am so concerned about our law enforcement right now quitting and you should be too.”

Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D) said this verdict was a step towards achieving justice for George Floyd’s family and brings attention to police violence, but more needs to be done to combat systemic racism.

“The footage of Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of George Floyd — who was begging for his life — painfully demonstrated the long, necessary work that has yet to occur if we truly wish to achieve equal justice and bring long-overdue reforms to police departments across the country,” she said in a prepared statement.

“In the wake of today’s verdict, we should all be committed to carrying out that work — for the sake of our communities and for the strength of our nation. My thoughts are with the family of George Floyd in this moment, as well as with the thousands of American families who have yet to achieve justice on behalf of their loved ones.”

According to ABC News, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris watched the verdict with staff in their private dining room. Following the announcement of the verdict, Biden spoke with Governor Tim Walz. The President, the Vice President, and the First Lady spoke with Philonise Floyd from the Oval Office.

Biden and Harris are planning to deliver remarks later this evening on the verdict.

As for former national leaders, former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama gave their response, saying the jury in Minneapolis did the right thing:

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

While today’s verdict may have been a necessary step on the road to progress, it was far from a sufficient one. We cannot rest. We will need to follow through with the concrete reforms that will reduce and ultimately eliminate racial bias in our criminal justice system. We will need to redouble efforts to expand economic opportunity for those communities that have been too long marginalized.

And as we continue the fight, we can draw strength from the millions of people — especially young people — who have marched and protested and spoken up over the last year, shining a light on inequity and calling for change. Justice is closer today not simply because of this verdict, but because of their work.

Michelle and I send our prayers to the Floyd family, in the hopes that they may find peace. And we 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.”

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