- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Chauvin, 45, could be sent to prison for decades in the murder of George Floyd (13:40). WCCO 4 News - April 20, 2021
KEITH ELLISON: My name is Keith Ellison. I'm the attorney general of the state of Minnesota. And since the investigation and prosecution of this case began last May, everyone involved has pursued one goal, justice. We pursued justice wherever it led.
When I became the lead prosecutor for the case, I asked for time and patience to review the facts, gather evidence, and prosecute for the murder of George Floyd to the fullest extent the law allowed. I want to thank the community for giving us that time and allowing us to do our work. That long, hard, painstaking work has culminated today. I would not call today's verdict justice, however, because justice implies true restoration. But it is accountability, which is the first step towards justice. And now the cause of justice is in your hands. And when I say your hands, I mean the hands of the people of the United States.
George Floyd mattered. He was loved by his family and his friends. His death shocked the conscience of our community, our country, the whole world. He was loved by his family and friends. But that isn't why he mattered. He mattered because he was a human being. And there is no way we can turn away from that reality.
The people who stopped and raised their voices on May 25, 2020 were a bouquet of humanity, a phrase I stole from my friend Jerry Blackwell. A bouquet of humanity-- old, young, men and women, black and white. A man from the neighborhood just walking to get a drink. A child going to buy a snack with her cousin. An off-duty firefighter on her way to a community garden. Brave young women-- teenagers-- who pressed Record on their cell phones.
Why did they stop? They didn't know George Floyd. They didn't know he had a beautiful family. They didn't know he had been a great athlete. And they didn't know he was a proud father or that he had people in his life who loved him.
They stopped and raised their voices, and they even challenged authority, because they saw his humanity. They stopped and they raised their voices, because they knew that what they were seeing was wrong. They didn't need to be medical professionals or experts in the use of force. They knew it was wrong. And they were right.
These community members, this bouquet of humanity did it again in this trial. They performed simple yet profound acts of courage. They told the truth, and they told the whole world the truth, about what they saw. They were vindicated by the chief of police, by Minneapolis' longest serving police officer, and by many other police officers who stepped up and testified as to what they saw and to what they knew. What happened on that street was wrong. We owe it, and we owe our gratitude to fulfilling-- we owe them our gratitude for fulfilling their civic duty and for their courage in telling the truth.
To countless people in Minnesota and across the United States who join them in peacefully demanding justice for George Floyd, we say, all of us, thank you. In the coming days, more may seek to express themselves again through petition and demonstration. I urge everyone to honor the legacy of George Floyd by doing so calmly, legally, and peacefully. I urge everyone to continue the journey to transformation and justice. It's in your hands now.
I also want to address the Floyd family, if I may. Over the last year, the family of George Floyd had to relive again and again the worst day of their lives when they lost their brother, their father, their friend. I'm profoundly grateful to them for giving us the time we needed to prosecute this case. They have shown the world what grace and class and courage really look like. Although a verdict alone cannot in their pain, I hope it's another step on the long path toward healing for them. There's no replacing your beloved Perry-- or Floyd, as his friends called him. But he is the one who sparked a worldwide movement, and that's important.
We owe our thanks to the men and women of the jury who gave many hours of their time and attention to carefully listening to the evidence, weighing the facts, rendering a verdict. They are regular people from all walks of life, a lot like that bouquet of humanity on that corner on May 25 and in that courtroom. They answered the call, and they served in a landmark trial. They now deserve to return to their lives. If they ask you to respect their privacy, we ask you to honor that request.
I want to acknowledge the remarkable team that helped us prosecute the case. We put everything we had into this prosecution. We presented the best case that we could, and the jury heard us. And we're grateful for that. We had the sole burden of proof in the case, and history shows that winning cases like these can be difficult. I'm proud of every hour, every minute, and every ounce of effort we put in this case.
And let me tell you, we spent many hours working on this case, did we not? Week after week, committee meeting after committee meeting, this team never let up, and it never quit. We fought every day. And we did it together. The attorney general's office together, with the Hennepin County attorney's office, thank you, sir. And we did it together. I'm deeply grateful to everyone who worked on the case.
Most of these folks will tell you it's a bad idea to put together a team of all Michael Jordans. Nobody would want to pass the ball. This team, that was their true strength, is sharing the load, passing the ball, understanding that all of us together are smarter than any one of us alone. And that worked.
Although the verdict, has been rendered this is not the end. In the coming weeks, the court will determine sentencing. And later this summer, we expect to present another case. We will not be talking about that.
This verdict reminds us how hard it is to make enduring change. And I just want to finish by sharing some important historical legacy, if you'll allow me. In 1968, the Kerner Commission was formed to investigate the causes of uprisings across major American cities. And a man named Dr. Kenneth Clark, a famous African-American psychologist who, along with his equally accomplished psychologist wife Mamie, contributed to compelling research in the Brown versus Board of Education case. And Dr. Clark testified at the Kerner Commission. And I want to quote you what he said.
I read that report, the one on the 1919 riot in Chicago, and it was if I were reading the report of investigating the committee of the Harlem Riot in 1935, the report on investigating the Harlem Riot in 1943, and the report of the McCone Commission on the Watts Riot. "I must say again in candor to you, the members of this commission, it's like a kind of an Alice in Wonderland with the same moving picture re-shown over and over again, the same analysis, the same recommendation, and the same inaction." Those are the words of Dr. Clark in 1968.
Here we are in 1920-- excuse me, 2020. 2021. Here we are in 2021 still addressing the same problem. Since Dr. Clark testified, we have seen Rodney King, Abner Louima, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Laquan McDonald, Stephon Clark, Atatiana Jefferson, Anton Black, Breonna Taylor, and now Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo. This has to end. We need true justice. That's not one case. That is a social transformation that says that nobody's beneath the law, and no one is above it.
This verdict reminds us that we must make enduring systemic societal change. More than a month ago, months before George Floyd was murdered, the Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner, John Harrington, and I released the recommendations of our working group on reducing deadly force encounters with law enforcement. What all of us in that working group, including law enforcement, wanted is for everyone to go home safe. Any time someone doesn't, everyone's lives are changed forever.
We need to use this verdict as an inflection point. What if we just prevented the problem instead of having to try these cases? We don't want any more community members dying at the hands of law enforcement and their families' lives ruined. We don't want any more law enforcement members having to face criminal charges and their families' lives ruined. We don't want any more communities torn apart.
One way to prevent this is to get into a new relationship where we as a society reexamine the use of force and our old settled assumptions. I'm so proud of Chief Arradondo and the Minneapolis Police officers who by their testimony said enough is enough. Another way to prevent it is by acknowledging and lifting up everyone's humanity, helping communities heal, and officers be well.
Another way to prevent it is with accountability. passing laws and instituting policies and training is important. But they must be more than words on paper, and there must be accountability for violating them. With this verdict, we have brought some accountability.
Finally, this verdict demands us to never give up the hope that we can make enduring change. Generations of people said slavery would never end. Generations said Jim Crow would never end. Generations said women would never be equal to men. Generations said if you were different in any way, you could never be a full and equal member of our society. Today, we have to end this travesty of recurring, enduring deaths at the hands of law enforcement. Those beliefs are things we have to focus our attention on.
And as I now do close, I just want to say to you, the work of our generation is to put unaccountable law enforcement behind us. It's time to transform the relationship between community and the people who are sworn to protect them from more on that is mistrustful, suspicious, and in some cases terrifying into one that is empathetic, compassionate, and affirming. That will benefit everyone, including police officers who deserve to serve in a profession that is honored in departments where they don't have to worry about colleagues who don't follow the rules.
Now, that work is in your hands. The work of our generation is to put an end to the vestiges of Jim Crow and the centuries of trauma, and finally put an end to racism. We can end it. It doesn't have to be with us into the future if we decide now to have true liberty and justice for all. The work of our generation is to say goodbye to old practices that don't serve us anymore and to put them all behind us. One conviction, even one like this one, can create a powerful new opening to shed old practices and reset relationships.
So with that, I just want to say that I do hope that people step forward and understand that nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something. You can do something the way like everyday people like Donna Williams and Genevieve Hansen and Christopher Martin and Charles McMillan and all those teenagers and young people stepped up and did something. You can do things like help pass the George Floyd Justice and Accountability Act. It's in your hands. Let's get the work done.