PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The vast majority of Rhode Island leaders and lawmakers shared similar sentiments following the murder and manslaughter conviction of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin Tuesday evening: Justice has been served.
In a joint statement issued soon after the verdict was announced, Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee and Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos said they are both pleased with the decision.
“While [Tuesday’s] verdict will never bring back George Floyd, whose life was tragically taken, it reaffirms a fundamental tenant of our country — that no one is above the law. Our thoughts are with the Floyd family and the people of Minnesota,” the statement reads. “Justice was served … but we have a lot of work to do to put a stop to police brutality, root out systemic racism, and build a more equitable state and nation.”
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza said while the verdict is a start, more needs to be done to root out systemic racism nationwide.
“The jury has confirmed what millions had witnessed — the cold-blooded murder of George Floyd by a police officer who was sworn to protect him,” Elorza said. “While I hope this verdict gives the Floyd family some peace, justice will not bring George back. We can’t rest until we address the centuries of racial injustices and social inequities that brought us to this moment.”
Black Lives Matter Rhode Island Executive Director Gary Dantzler tells 12 News the verdict makes him feel both positive and negative.
“I am excited and I am happy, but I am still feeling some type of way that we are going through this, still, to this day,” Dantzler said. “It goes back to economic empowerment, improving the infrastructure of America. Black America. African American America. To fix it, this problem that we have deep-rooted, we’ve still got so much work to do.”
Harrison Tuttle, the executive director of the Black Lives Matter Rhode Island Political Action Committee, said while the verdict is “a step in the right direction, he reiterated that they will not rest “until justice is finally, actually served.”
“Justice is George Floyd being alive, right?” Tuttle said. “This is the best result possible and by no means am I upset, but I also recognize that we need to change how we think about the American justice system, and policing itself, so Black people don’t die to begin with.”
“With all this negativity going around in this world, it’s good to have a result like this and be able to use this as a launching point to move forward, it doesn’t stop here,” he continued. “We need to take a moment to not only honor George Floyd’s life, but use this as a moment to say, ‘How can we move forward?'”
R.I. Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green called Floyd’s death a preventable tragedy, adding that this “is very much personal to me as someone who intimately understands how racism has historically and systematically denied too many people equal access and protections, inflicted much heartache and left too many families with a void.”
“Floyd’s legacy demands that we continue to fight for equality and equal rights,” she said.
Rep. Jim Langevin called Chauvin’s acts inexcusable.
“While the vast majority of police officers serve their communities honorably, officers who fail in this responsibility breed suspicion and distrust among those they are sworn to ‘protect and serve,'” Langevin said. “Chauvin, and any other member of law enforcement, must be held accountable for their behavior when they violate the public trust.”
“George Floyd’s life mattered, and I’m heartened the jury agreed,” he continued.
Rep David Cicilline said he hopes the verdict brings Floyd’s family some peace.
“We have a lot of work to do in changing the ways police interact with those they are sworn to protect,” Cicilline said.
Sen. Jack Reed said “every American was rightfully angered by that video of George Floyd being brutally, unjustly killed by someone who was supposed to uphold the law and instead grossly abused their power.”
“This was a just, unanimous verdict reached by a jury that carefully examined the evidence, followed the law, and reached its own conclusion,” he said. “Nothing can bring George Floyd back, but we as a nation must move forward together.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehousse said the nation must now “deliver on our Constitution’s promise of equal protection under law.”
“I hope this trial opens a path for people of good will in law enforcement and Black and Brown communities to reach agreement on lasting reform,” he said.
R.I. House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi said he’s happy with the verdict, and the House will continue to carefully consider the police reform bills making their way through the General Assembly.
“Reform of the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights is a priority of many members of the House,” he said. “Several different bills have been heard recently by the House Judiciary Committee and they will go through the normal legislative process.”
Joseph McNamara, chairman of the R.I. Democratic Party, said there was justice not only for George Floyd, but “for every Black person who has suffered at the hands of a rogue police officer.”
“Let this be the transformative moment that extends from criminal justice to education and health care in our society,” McNamara said. “We hope his family finds solace in this moment, and in the grief they have faced this past year, and that it leads to lasting change.”
Attorney General Peter Neronha applauded his counterparts in Minnesota for “their hard work in prosecuting this ongoing case.”
“The killing of George Floyd by police last summer was a heartbreaking loss for his family and resulted in pain and anger across the nation,” Neronha said. “The ensuing conversations and protests concerning our criminal justice system were raw and necessary, as we begin to address flaws in and reforms to that system.”
R.I. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea said the verdict is “a part of the healing that is necessary to address our country’s racism.
“George Floyd shouldn’t have died as he did,” she said. “I remain committed to working on moving our country forward through anti-racism, inclusion and equity.”
Sidney Wordell, the executive director of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association, condemned Chauvin’s actions and said the verdict proves that, in this case, the justice system worked properly.
“The verdict is a sign that there is accountability for those who take the life of another, and an affirmation that Black Lives Matter,” he said. “On behalf of every police chief in Rhode Island, we wish to reiterate that we stand with Black Americans today and every day. Every decent man and woman who wears a badge is committed to doing the essential work of ensuring equity in policing and confronting systemic racism that has plagued our nation for too long.”