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Media Contact: Kimberly Milliard
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April 18, 2021

Guilty Verdict against Derek Chauvin is a Powerful Step Towards Police Accountability; yet More Work Remains to Be Done

Minneapolis, MN— We are elated that the first step on the road to police accountability has been taken with the conviction of Derek Chauvin on all three charges for the heinous murder of George Floyd. The guilty verdict in this case is a cause for celebration for the Black community and all people looking to live in a better world.  We celebrate the years-long persistence of Black leaders in our community that made this happen. We can finally exhale and release the tension we have been holding for almost a year, hoping this moment would come.

Three weeks ago, civil rights attorney and Racial Justice Network founder, Nekima Levy Armstrong wrote in an op-ed published by BET, “A guilty verdict is the only acceptable justice for George Floyd. . . . [A second-degree murder conviction signals] to white police officers in Minnesota and elsewhere that they are no longer above the law.”

Even as we celebrate, it is crucial that we not allow the police to characterize Derek Chauvin as one bad apple, when the whole system is in need of significant overhaul. We will, however, hold him up as an example that change is coming and that change is possible.

“Let this be a notice to all police that we will no longer tolerate the unwarranted use of deadly force. If you are at the foot of someone who is being murdered by your colleague(s), it is your responsibility to stop that murder. If you can’t do it for the human being in your care, do it because you will go to jail,” says Billie Jean Van Knight, Racial Justice Network member.

Though we affirm the verdict in this case against Derek Chauvin, the entire system must be re-examined and overhauled, given the disparate harm it perpetuates upon Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. “There are those in civic leadership who would have us believe that Derek Chauvin is an aberration from how policing in Minnesota works rather than emblematic of it,” says Kimberly Milliard, a member of Racial Justice Network, “but we know that by itself, the conviction of one individual former police officer does nothing to change the system which allowed for George Floyd to be murdered in the first place. This is the very system which allowed Derek Chauvin to sincerely believe he could get away with it – because several times before George Floyd, he literally had.”

As we celebrate with community in this historic moment, much work remains to be done in transforming the system of policing. To that end, Racial Justice Network demands the following: 

1.  The immediate end of Operation Safety Net;

2.  Passing by the Minnesota Legislature of the nine police reform bills set forth by the Minnesota Justice Coalition;

3.  Washington County Prosecutor Pete Orput to bring second-degree and third-degree murder charges against former Brooklyn Center officer Kimberly Potter, for the murder of Daunte Wright on April 11, 2021;

4.  The reopening of the cases of all killings by police officers in Minnesota. All stolen lives deserve justice; and

5.  The conviction of former Minneapolis police officers Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao for aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter against George Floyd.

The Racial Justice Network (RJN) is a multi-racial, grassroots organization, committed to fighting for racial justice and building bridges across racial, social, and economic lines.