'It can't stop here': Biden, after Chauvin verdict, calls for passage of George Floyd bill

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WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden called for a "moment of significant change" to fight systemic racism in policing Tuesday after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all counts in the death of George Floyd.

"No one should be above the law, and today's verdict sends that message," Biden said in a speech from the White House. "But it's not enough. It can't stop here. In order to deliver real change and reform, we can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will ever happen again."

A Minneapolis jury Tuesday afternoon found Chauvin, 45, guilty of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for Floyd's death last May.

More: Derek Chauvin found guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd: Live updates

Biden called the death of Floyd – a 46-year-old Black man whose head was pinned under Chauvin's knee for more than nine minutes – "a murder in the full light of day" that "ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see systemic racism."

The president said the nation must confront "head on" systemic racism and disparities that exist in policing and the criminal justice system. While state and local governments "need to step up," Biden said, so does the federal government.

"We can't leave this moment or look away thinking our work is done. We have to look at it as we did for those nine minutes and 29 seconds," he said. "We have to listen. 'I can't breathe. I can't breathe.'

President Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris, speaks Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the White House in Washington, after former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.
President Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris, speaks Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the White House in Washington, after former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

"Those were George Floyd's last words. 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. We have a chance to begin to change the trajectory in this country."

Biden said his Justice Department is "fully committed to restoring trust" between law enforcement and communities. He touted two of his nominees for high-ranking DOJ positions, Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke, whose confirmations many Republican oppose. Biden said they would help advance his administration's priorities to "root out" unconstitutional policing and reform the criminal justice system.

"And they deserve to be confirmed," Biden said.

More: Kristen Clarke, Joe Biden's pick for top civil rights job, tells senators about her own son

He also pushed for the Senate's passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act – named in Floyd's honor – that seeks to bolster police accountability and prevent problem officers from moving from one department to another. The bill, which cleared the House in March, would also end certain police practices that have been under scrutiny.

"We need Congress to act," Biden said. "George Floyd died almost a year ago. There's meaningful police reform legislation in his name."

"The guilty verdict does not bring back George. But through the family's pain, they're finding purpose so that George's legacy will not just be about his death but about what we must do in his memory."

More: 'We must act now': House passes police reform bill named for George Floyd

Biden appealed for demonstrations following Chauvin's verdict to be peaceful, not violent, condemning those who will seek to "exploit the raw emotions of the moment" as "agitators and extremists who have no interest in social justice."

Chauvin, who is white, was captured on video pinning Floyd to the ground after police responded to a report that claimed Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill. The cellphone video went viral, touching off months of protests in the U.S. and abroad condemning police brutality and calling for racial justice under the Black Lives Matter movement.

"Because of smartphones, so many Americans have now seen the racial injustice that Black Americans have known for generations – the racial injustice that we have fought for generations," said Harris, the nation's first Black and woman vice president.

"Here's the truth about racial injustice. It is not just a Black America problem or a people of color problem. It is a problem for every American. It is keeping us from fulfilling the promise of liberty and justice for all."

'At least now there's some justice,' Biden tells Floyd family after verdict

Earlier in the afternoon, Biden called the Floyd family shortly after the verdict was announced. The president spoke to the family by phone as well on Monday, offering his prayers while the jury was in deliberation.

"I'm feeling better now," Biden said Tuesday, his voice audible as the family's attorney Ben Crump put the president on speaker for the family to hear. "There's nothing that's going to make it all better. But at least now there's some justice. And you know, I think of Gianna's comment: 'My daddy's going to change the world.' We're going to start to change it now."

"You're an incredible family," Biden added. "I wish I were there just to put my arms around you."

Biden was referring to Gianna Floyd, Floyd's 7-year-old daughter. Biden told the family that he watched the verdict's announcement alongside Harris, his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, and other White House aides.

"We're all so relieved, not to just get one verdict but all three counts. It's really important. I'm anxious to see you guys. I really am."

Biden invited the family to the White House.

"You better all get ready, because when we do it, we're going to put you on Air Force One and get you here," the president said. "I guarantee it."

Biden developed a bond with the Floyd family during the 2020 presidential race. While he was the Democratic nominee, Biden met privately with the family before Floyd's funeral. In a video address during Floyd's funeral last June, Biden said, "When there is justice for George Floyd, we will truly be on our way to racial justice in America."

Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden calls for Congress to pass George Floyd in Policing Act