Biden, Harris say fight against systemic racism continues after guilty verdict in Chauvin trial
U.S. president, VP call on Congress to address policing reform swiftly
U.S. President Joe Biden said Tuesday the murder and manslaughter conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd "can be a giant step forward" for the nation in the fight against systemic racism. But he declared that "it's not enough."
Biden spoke from the White House hours after the verdict alongside Vice-President Kamala Harris, with the pair saying the country's work is far from finished with the verdict.
"We can't stop here," Biden declared.
Biden and Harris called on Congress to act swiftly to address policing reform, including by approving a bill named for Floyd, who died with his neck under Chauvin's knee last May. Beyond that, the president said, the entire country must confront hatred to "change hearts and minds as well as laws and policies."
WATCH | Biden, Harris discuss the continuing fight against systemic racism:
"'I can't breathe.' Those were George Floyd's last words," Biden said. "We can't let those words die with him. We have to keep hearing those words. We must not turn away. We can't turn away."
Harris, the first Black woman to serve as vice-president, said racism was keeping the country from fulfilling its founding promise of "liberty and justice for all."
"It is not just a Black America problem or a people of colour problem. It is a problem for every American," she said. "It is holding our nation back from reaching our full potential."
"A measure of justice isn't the same as equal justice," she said.
Biden addressed the nation after telephoning Floyd's family following the verdict, telling them, "We're all so relieved." He added later that he sought to comfort Floyd's young daughter Gianna, telling her, "Daddy did change the world."
After about 10 hours of deliberations over two days, the jury convicted Chauvin of two counts of murder and one of manslaughter.
Before the verdict was announced in Minneapolis, Biden said that he was "praying the verdict is the right verdict" and that he believed the case, which has gone to the jury and put the nation on edge, to be "overwhelming."
Biden told reporters that he was only weighing in on the trial because the jury in the case had been sequestered.
WATCH | Biden praying for 'right verdict':
He confirmed that he called Floyd's family on Monday to offer prayers and said he "can only imagine the pressure and anxiety they're feeling."
"They're a good family and they're calling for peace and tranquility no matter what that verdict is," Biden said. "I'm praying the verdict is the right verdict. I think it's overwhelming, in my view. I wouldn't say that unless the jury was sequestered now."
The U.S. president has repeatedly denounced Floyd's death but had previously stopped short of weighing in on the trial itself, with White House officials earlier saying it would be improper for a president to speak out during active judicial proceedings.
With files from CBC News