State, local leaders respond to Chauvin verdict

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – State and local officials are weighing in on the guilty verdict in the trial over George Floyd’s death.

On Tuesday, a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson called the verdict “the first step to justice.” The mayor — who joined thousands of protestors last year — says the entire process has been emotional. His full response reads:

Today was not about justice. It was about accountability, which is the first step to justice. While today’s verdict does not bring George Floyd back to life, it does hold people who break the law and commit illegal actions while wearing the uniform and badge of a law enforcement agency accountable.

This has been an emotional time for me, our entire nation, and, most certainly, for the Floyd family and the good people of the state of Minnesota. But we are reminded that there are many families across the country who are still seeking accountability and who deserve some measure of justice. Today is a new dawn on that journey. Today is not an end, it is a beginning. Hopefully, effective federal and state legislation will follow that ensures these types of actions never happen again. 

I ask Savannahians to remain prayerful and vigilant and continue to seek reconciliation, restoration and accountability. 

Savannah Police Chief Minter said he believes the verdict can be a “catalyst for change in law enforcement.”

Three other former officers also face charges linked to Floyd’s death.

FILE – This combination of photos provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota on June 3, 2020, shows from left, former Minneapolis police officers Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File)

“I have and will continue to unequivocally condemn the actions of these former officers,” said Minter.

His full statement:

I, along with our community and the nation as a whole, awaited the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial. Yesterday, Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. As I stated in May of 2020, the actions of former officer Chauvin were horrific and inexcusable. I believe the actions of the other officers at the scene are also inexcusable. I have and will continue to unequivocally condemn the actions of these former officers. The behavior of these former officers does not meet the expectations of any member of the Savannah Police Department or other police officers in our country. As a police chief, I believe this verdict can be a catalyst for change in our profession. The Savannah Police Department remains committed to serving our community with PRIDE – Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Dedication and Excellence.

After hearing about Minter’s hopes for change, Chatham County’s Chief Assistant District Attorney told News 3 that he agrees.

“I suspect that will be true with prosecutors, authorities as well as we better understand the way that the systems that we have operated for decades have not always seem to have the most equitable or fair process for everyone involved,” said Michael Edwards.

Chatham County Rep. Carl Gillard — who says he watched the verdict come down with his family — also echoed Minter’s sentiments about the other officers who were involved.

“The nation — black white, Hispanic — can breathe a little better, but we want to be able to totally breathe with total justice,” he told News 3 after a Rotary Club meeting in Pooler.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said he hopes Tuesday’s verdict can bring healing. As the verdict brought some of the nation to tears, he says he is grateful celebrations in Georgia stayed peaceful.

People march through the streets of Atlanta after Derek Chauvin was found guilty of three counts in the death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)

“Last year, America and the world witnessed injustice with our own eyes,” he tweeted. “It is my hope yesterday’s clear verdict can begin to heal our communities and our nation. I join all Georgians in continuing to pray for George Floyd’s family and loved ones in their tragic loss.”

Lowcountry Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) called Floyd’s murder “a heartbreaking tragedy.”

“Clashes with law enforcement should not end in death. Period. I pray our country can work peacefully toward needed change,” she tweeted.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said there is “more work to be done to ensure the bad apples to don’t define all officers.” He continued:

George Floyd died because Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck and stopped him from breathing for more than nine minutes. There is no question in my mind that the jury reached the right verdict.

While this outcome should give us renewed confidence in the integrity of our justice system, we know there is more work to be done to ensure the bad apples do not define all officers—the vast majority of whom put on the uniform each day with integrity and servant hearts. We must all come together to help repair the tenuous relationship between law enforcement and Black and minority Americans.

To deny the progress we’ve made is just as damaging as not making progress at all. I urge people across this nation to peacefully make their voices heard and engage in conversations that will continue to move us toward a more just America. I believe in the goodness of our country; we can and will do better.

The two Democratic senators from Georgia said the next step to justice is police reform:

“George Floyd’s murderer has been convicted, but brutality and racial bias will persist in our justice system until we enact reform. I am urging my colleagues in the Senate to pass criminal justice reform that will ensure public safety, rebuild trust between communities and law enforcement, and secure equal justice for all.”

Sen. Jon Ossoff

First and foremost, I’m thinking about George Floyd’s children and his family, and I’m thankful that they received something that approaches justice today after the trauma they’ve endured—one we’ve seen visited upon Black people and communities of color time and time again, and that never becomes less painful.

Today’s verdict affirming Derek Chauvin’s responsibility for killing George Floyd is the right outcome in this trial, but it is not justice for George Floyd, who should still be here with us, nor for his family and community, who have suffered an immeasurable loss.

We know that there cannot be healing without justice, and likewise, we still have much work to do in the Senate not only to create true justice that prevents more senseless killings of Black people, but to push our system closer to our ideals of equal protection under the law. That’s why reforming policing on the federal level is so imperative, and why Congress must pass legislation like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that will help end this cycle of violence and bend the moral arc of the universe closer to justice.

As a voice for Georgians in the Senate, and as a Black man, I hope today’s verdict is the beginning of a turning point in our country where people who have seen this trauma over and over again will know it is possible to have equal protection under the law. And in the meantime, I’m going to continue pushing with everything I can to make sure our federal government honors people’s humanity and recognizes their citizenship—whether it’s at the polls, or during their interactions with police.”

Sen. Raphael Warnock

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