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Gov. Tim Walz Speaks Following Derek Chauvin's Conviction

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The now-fired white officer was found guilty on all charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter (10:04). WCCO 4 News - April 20, 2021

Video Transcript

TIM WALZ: Good evening, Minnesota, and good evening to those tuning in across the United States. I'm Tim Walz. I have the privilege of being the governor of the state of Minnesota. I'll be joined at the podium tonight by the mayor of Saint Paul, Minnesota, Melvin Carter, and joined for any questions at the end of the statements by John Harrington, who is our commissioner of the Department of Public Safety.

Last May 25, the world watched in horror as George Floyd's life and humanity were taken from him with a knee in the neck. The pain and the grief and the anguish of the Floyd family was bared to the world and as was Minnesota's pain and anguish and obvious failures, especially when it came to race and policing.

A short time ago, that police officer, Derek Chauvin, was found guilty of murder of George Floyd and was taken away, and sentencing will soon follow. It's an important step towards justice for Minnesota. Trial's over. But here in Minnesota, I want to be very clear, we know our work just begins. This is the floor, not the ceiling of where we need to get to.

I want to take a few minutes to thank the folks involved in this and this trauma that has spread from 38th and Chicago across our state, across the country, and the world. I'd like to thank my friend, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. The remarkable work that he and his team did made us proud, and it made us believe for today-- and we need to hold that thought-- that justice is possible.

That team was Steve Schleicher and Jerry Blackwell, two Minnesota attorneys, who, pro bono, chose to step up and make sure that the state's case would hold. They make us proud. Their humanity, their intelligence, and their belief that justice would be served inspired all of us over these past difficult weeks.

I'd like to thank the jurors who held an incredible burden to do the right thing and make sure justice was served without being influenced by anything else. They did a service that holds a heart in our democracy and our judicial system, and they did it. They did it, I think, for all of us in a way that had us all holding our breath but with a belief that it could work.

And I'd like to thank those who testified in this trial. I'd like to thank those police officers who showed what integrity looks like. It may be a sad statement that many of us have waited a long time to maybe be able to witness that, but it's there, and we know it, and we saw it on display.

And I'd like to thank the other witnesses who last May stood on that street corner and, as Jerry Blackwell said, showed a bouquet of humanity, the beautiful multicultural society that we have here in Minneapolis and in Minnesota. But those people were subjected to something no one should have to see. They saw George Floyd murdered in front of them. But they had the courage to stay to record what they saw and then bring forward that pain again and again and again to them to make sure that George Floyd received justice.

Thousands of Minnesotans marched in the streets in the wake of his death. They inspired a movement, not just here but across our nation and the world. Many of these people did not know George Floyd, and many of them had maybe never been down on 38th and Chicago, but they went day after day, and they kept that place sacred, all with the intent to make sure that justice for George Floyd would be served. They called for change, and they demanded it.

A year later, Derek Chauvin is behind bars and faces years in prison, but we know that accountability in the courtroom is only the very first step. To the Floyd family, we grieve for you. Today is a small measure, but George is not coming back. A child lost a father, a brother, an uncle, a friend. We mourn with you, and we promise the pursuit will continue for justice. As Attorney General Ellison said, this isn't justice. It's just one step towards it.

True justice for George Floyd will come through real systemic change to prevent this from ever happening again when every member of our community, no matter their race, their religion, their background is safe, valued, and protected. The tragic death last week of Daunte Wright showed the world once again how much work we have to do. That small step forward, though, inspires us to do the work.

And for those of you listening who aren't from Minnesota, Minnesota is an exceptional place with exceptional people. We're many times lifted up as a model of well-being. But we have to ensure that's true of everyone. Measures of wellness, happiness, economic security-- even during COVID, we were recognized as being the best state in the nation for the care of children and the best state in the nation for women.

But if you do a little digging and you disaggregate and break that data apart, a chilling truth becomes very apparent. Those statistics are true on well-being if you're white. They're not only not true if you're Black, it's exactly the opposite.

The death of George Floyd was maybe an awakening for some Minnesotans to this hard truth, a truth that our communities of color have known their entire life. That inequity will not stand. That inequity will eventually bring the heartache and what you saw on 38th and Chicago, what you saw in Brooklyn Center, what I've said from this podium many times. It's not good enough to rank first in educational attainment for white children if we rank last for Black children. It's not good enough that we have some of the best health outcomes in the country if that's only true if you're white. Not only is that not sustainable for communities of color, it is unsustainable for any society to have those types of inequities.

We can't undo centuries of racism and bias in one night, but we can come together and ensure that Minnesota is the best place in the country for every child to succeed. We must make meaningful change at the state and federal level.

And Minnesotans, we're going to need your help. You saw what happens when your voices are lifted up. You have the pledge of our administration to do everything we possibly can to put the priorities of lifting up equity in all aspects of life in Minnesota, starting with real reforms around policing and criminal justice and to extend to educational opportunities, health-care outcomes, home ownership, all of the things that make this state the best place to live.

We need to take away that qualifier. It's not just the best place to live if you're white. It needs to be the best place ever. And George Floyd's death and our justice system's conviction of that murder gives us that small place to believe we can make the difference.

Communities of color will not go on like this. Police officers will not go on like this. White communities in our state cannot go on like this. The only way forward is through systemic change.

And I'm not naive. I've done this long enough. We'll be told there's not enough time, there's other priorities, it's difficult. For those listening across America, the unique part of our legislative body here is it's the only one in the country that one house is controlled by the Democrats and the other house is controlled by the Republicans, which gives us a golden opportunity to show that equity, decency, and humanity should know no political boundary. We're going to ask folks to come together to have hard conversations in those chambers of the legislature, in our own houses, and for many of you, amongst our own families.

Those of a certain age, if you're white, it's easy to believe, what's the problem? Things work well. There's good jobs here. You can buy a house. Why can't everybody do this? It's time to have that conversation with your relatives. It's time to have this conversation in every corner of the state that we cannot continue the way we've been going.

And the good news about this is there's plenty to go around. We know what works. We need to start applying it. We need to make that commitment.

So we have to rebuild, restore, and reimagine the relationship with law enforcement and the communities they serve. We must tackle racial inequities in every corner of our society from health to homeownership to education, and we have to do it finding that common humanity.

I know that the people of goodwill across this state and across this country know that what you saw today could and needs to be a pivotal moment in race and equity and decency across this country. And I said it back in May that we're not going to get another chance to do this. This is our moment.

And for those of you who have seen Minnesota-- and as the governor of Minnesota, it breaks my heart, but my pledge is to make it better. This is a great state with great people, and it's now our time to show that means every single person.