Leaders across Wisconsin react to Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict with a mix of jubilation and caution
Former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on April 20 of murder and manslaughter for pinning George Floyd to the pavement with his knee on the Black man’s neck.
The case triggered worldwide protests, violence, and a furious reexamination of racism and policing in the United States. Chauvin could be sent to prison for decades. The guilty as charged verdict on all counts was a complete victory for Floyd’s supporters. The news set off jubilation mixed with sorrow across the city and around the nation. State and local leaders across Wisconsin, along with community advocates, released statements immediately after the guilty verdict was announced on April 20.
“A jury in Minneapolis has reviewed the facts in the Chauvin case and delivered a just verdict. The image of George Floyd dying is a permanent part of our collective memory. To move forward, we must understand violence against Black people—and other people of color—is real. And, while rare, there are people in positions of authority who perpetrate that violence. I condemn that. Here in Milwaukee, we are moving forward with new approaches in law enforcement. We are focused on accountability, evolving law enforcement culture, and increasing community respect. The death of George Floyd prompted many to raise their voices for justice. Peaceful petitioning for change is an essential part of American society. It is essential for Milwaukee’s future. Peace and peaceful protest is the way to reach the goals we share.” – Tom Barrett, Mayor of Milwaukee
“There’s no verdict that can bring peace to loved ones when someone is taken from them. My heart and thoughts are with George Floyd’s family, his loved ones, and the entire community. “While this is a moment of accountability in our justice system and our country, we are reminded that justice for Black lives is not a moment—it requires meaningful, sustained, and systemic change. Today’s verdict doesn’t replace the changes we must make to keep our promises of a more fair and more equitable state and country. Every day, and especially today, we must reaffirm and resolve to continue our work toward justice.” – Tony Evers, Governor of Wisconsin
“As I said last year, what we saw on the video of the events leading to George Floyd’s death was not law enforcement,” said Attorney General Kaul. “Derek Chauvin was not protecting or serving the residents of Minneapolis. He was committing a horrific crime. No jury verdict can bring Mr. Floyd back. Nor does this verdict mean that we don’t need to reform our criminal justice system. But today’s verdict does mean there will be accountability and, I hope, a measure of healing, especially for Mr. Floyd’s family.” – Josh Kaul, Attorney General of Wisconsin
“Today, we saw a small measure of justice served for George Floyd. Derek Chauvin, the officer who so horrifically knelt on the neck of George Floyd until he died, has been found guilty of Second Degree Murder, Third Degree Murder, and Second Degree Manslaughter. Moments ago, after roughly 10 hours of deliberation, the jury in the trial of Derek Chauvin announced a verdict finding Chauvin guilty on all three counts in connection to the killing of George Floyd last May. Over the course of a nearly month-and-a-half-long trial, prosecutors laid out a compelling case highlighting the recklessness, negligence, and disregard for human life shown by Chauvin in his arrest of George Floyd. Chauvin now awaits sentencing and the prospect of decades in prison. To be clear, if the system were truly just, George Floyd would still be alive today. If the system were truly just, Derek Chauvin would never have felt emboldened enough to kneel on George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. If the system were truly just, Black communities across the country would not fear for their lives during everyday interactions with police. But even within this system, where actual, meaningful justice is all too elusive all too frequently, today we saw a jury of twelve Americans make the correct decision to hold a police officer fully accountable for an inexcusable act of brutality. An act of brutality so clear that every law enforcement leader and advocate for justice agreed these actions were beneath what officers are called to do. These jurors weighed the facts of the case as presented to them, and unanimously agreed that Derek Chauvin’s actions amounted to murder. Today, we celebrate this victory in the ongoing fight for justice and equity, but we remain committed to marching, to holding our officials & law enforcement leaders accountable, and to transforming our system so that we never have to face a moment like this ever again. Black lives matter when the system makes them matter.” – David Bowen, Wisconsin State Representative
“On March 31st, 1968. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered one of the most memorable lines in a life that was full of them. “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” Some 53 years later, one could forgive Black Americans if they started to wonder if this sentiment had in fact proven to be untrue. As our nation, and indeed much of the world, erupted in protest for racial justice last year in numbers not seen since the 1960s, hope for real reform began to grow. But, as we have seen time after time, tragedy after tragedy, while the arc of the moral universe may be long, it doesn’t bend toward justice all on its own. “It’s a reality that George Floyd experienced first-hand for the last 9 minutes and 29 seconds of his life, as Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck ‘til he died. Video of this tragic and brazen misuse of force by a man sworn to serve and protect has traumatized people of color, particularly young Black men, in a way that no white person can truly comprehend. Today, the jury reached a verdict of guilty on all 3 counts in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin. It’s hard to call it justice when George Floyd will never see his family again, but at the very least the famed “blue wall” of silence has begun to crumble, and our justice system can work, even for those it has too often hurt. One positive verdict does not undo all the damage that’s been done. How does the United States reckon with its original sin of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, and decades of bigotry and gaslighting from people and institutions that have continued to fail people of color in spectacular fashion? How do we create communities where all residents are equally respected and protected by the public servants who serve in their name? It starts with all of us being honest with ourselves, admitting our biases, and doing our part to dismantle the systems of oppression that have allowed white supremacy to thrive for over 400 years in this occupied indigenous land that makes up our shared country. It’s about embracing our humanity and rejecting any system or ideology that would seek to divide us and turn our neighbors into enemies. With steps forward and stumbles backward, let us again rededicate ourselves to the purposeful improvement of our justice system, our country, and our sense of humanity. Today isn’t a finish line or a starting line, it’s a mile marker of progress in bending the arc slowly toward justice.” – Chris Larson, Wisconsin State Senator
“Today’s verdict in the case of Derek Chauvin, in which he was found guilty on all counts in the death of George Floyd, is an important step forward for the Floyd family, the country and those around the world. We are happy that George Floyd’s family received justice for the egregious act that occurred last May, and this verdict represents hope and relief for many that have called for reform and increased police accountability during the last year. While this trial may have concluded, the work to truly reform our public safety systems is still ongoing. Far too many people from communities of color have lost their lives from interactions with law enforcement, and continue to face injustices throughout our policing and legal systems. We on the Common Council remain dedicated to enacting reform that benefits ALL residents and eliminates structural inequities. It will be a long road ahead, but one that we are committed to traveling down. So let us stand together today in recognition of this moment, and work together to build on this momentum moving forward.” – Cavalier Johnson, President of the Milwaukee Common Council; Ashanti Hamilton, Milwaukee Aldermen; Nik Kovac, Milwaukee Aldermen; Robert J. Bauman, Milwaukee Aldermen; JoCasta Zamarripa, Milwaukee Alderwoman; Chantia Lewis, Milwaukee Alderwoman; Michael J. Murphy, Milwaukee Aldermen; Mark A. Borkowski, Milwaukee Aldermen; José G. Pérez, Milwaukee Aldermen; Scott Spiker, Milwaukee Aldermen; Marina Dimitrijevic, Milwaukee Alderwoman
“Today’s decision in the Derek Chauvin trail was the right one, and our hearts and prayers are with George Floyd’s family and friends. Our sincere hope is that this guilty verdict can bring them some relief after what has been a difficult year. Today’s decision is also about accountability, and we expected nothing less. This is a step toward complete and equal justice for Black people in our country, and increased accountability for police officers in the judicial system going forward. Since George Floyd’s death last May one thing has been made incredibly clear – the people have power. Those who marched in the streets made this happen. All those who spoke out about the injustice of police brutality made this happen. Let them and us never return to being silent so we can continue to make lasting change.” – Russell W. Stamper II, Milwaukee Aldermen; Khalif J. Rainey, Milwaukee Aldermen
“My thoughts are with the family, the friends, and the community of George Floyd who are deserving of our continued love, strength, and support. For close to a year, millions across the globe joined the family in their righteous calls for justice, but true justice lies beyond a single verdict. Even after the entire world witnessed George Floyd’s life taken on film, more Black and Brown people lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement. Just days ago, another Black man, Daunte Wright, was killed by a police officer just ten miles away from the courthouse where the Chauvin trial was taking place. A single verdict cannot bring justice for the Floyd family or the family of Daunte Wright who will forever shoulder the incomparable loss of a loved one. Real justice is living in a world where George Floyd and Daunte Wright are alive today and their killers never had the power to take their lives in the first place. Justice is dismantling the systems that endanger Black and Brown lives, transgender lives, Asian-American and Pacific Islander lives, and the lives of so many others part of communities who for generations have never felt safe – even in their own homes. Justice is intentionally working towards a world where someone’s life expectancy can’t be predicted by their zip code. Last year was a turning point as we saw the largest civil rights protest in recent memory in response to Floyd’s killing. It is my hope that today’s verdict serves as a turning point as well to finally acknowledging the historical and ongoing impact of systemic racism in communities across the country, and that we begin the work to see our neighbors as human beings worthy of the same rights and opportunities as the next person. I’m glad to see that after nearly a year, the Floyd family can rest tonight knowing George’s killer will be held accountable, but the system is guilty as well. Today, we must all commit ourselves to the work of achieving racial equity and bringing an end to the systemic forces that continue to devalue the lives of our fellow residents.” – David Crowley, Milwaukee County Executive
“Today, the American system of jurisprudence has spoken. With the verdicts in Minneapolis, many people at home and around our country are relieved. Let us thank those citizens who sat through weeks of testimony and fulfilled the role of juror, one of the highest tenets of citizenship. And let us all come to the realization in America that our work is not over until there truly is “justice for all.” – Earnell R. Lucas Milwaukee County Sheriff
“And the moral arc was bent, faith restored. No doubt the road is long, winding, and no doubt that there will be other trails and tribulations, hardships and sorrows: however today Justice prevailed. You are ok to feel a plethora of emotions and feelings. This was not just a trial of a white officer killing a black man, this was the revisiting of a traumatic past that has lived in the bodies and souls of so many black families, children, parents, and grandparents. This was indeed an ancestral reckoning long overdue. Your pain is recognized, the harm is recognized, and we must all do better. You are ok to feel.” – Pardeep Singh Kaleka, Executive Director of Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee
“We thank the jurors for their service and send once again our heartfelt condolences to the Floyd family. We pray that this will help them along their healing journey as they witness justice being served. While today is a victory for many in the social justice movement, it is a justice built on a tragedy. Far too many tragedies have been allowed to occur throughout a nation’s history and far too few have been held to account. Forward Latino supports every individual in law enforcement who uphold their sworn oath to defend, protect and serve all equally. Sadly, the ever-growing number of abuses captured on video demonstrates the scale of the issue before us and the need for reform. The State of Minnesota and the U.S. Federal Government provide members of law enforcement with unique authority and protections. Police are able to take the life of an individual if deemed necessary to protect themselves or the public without ever receiving the authorization of a judge and jury. Law enforcement also receives unique protections from liability that would befall all other Americans. With this immense authority and protection, comes tremendous responsibility. Individuals who abuse this unique authority, who betray the trust of the community they have sworn to serve must be held to account. Forward Latino is committed to working with the Community Coalition For Quality Policing, the U.S. Department of Justice, and Police Departments throughout the country to implement community oriented policing, revise archaic standard operating procedures, and to start the process of building trust between members of law enforcement, and those they are paid to serve. It is only when we all realize we are on the same team and work together, that we can reduce crime and improve public safety for all.” – Darryl Morin, National President of Forward Latino
“While we are glad that Derek Chauvin is being held accountable, true justice will never be served. True justice would mean George Floyd was alive and well today. From the northside of Milwaukee to the south shore of Lake Superior, we all want our families to be whole and our communities to thrive. However, our Black and Brown brothers and sisters are being murdered at the hands of the people entrusted to serve and protect those same communities. Opportunity Wisconsin stands in solidarity with our BIPOC partners across the Badger State in demanding our elected leaders reform a system that has abused and neglected Black and Brown people for far too long. The fight for racial justice is crucial to the fight for opportunity for every Wisconsinite.” – Meghan Roh, Program Director of Opportunity Wisconsin