US President Joe Biden condemned the nation’s legacy of systemic injustice and racist violence in his call for sweeping police reform, hours after a verdict was announced for the murder of George Floyd, a Black man whose death has revived an international demand for justice for the police killings of Black Americans.
“It was a murder in full light of day and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see” systemic racism in the US, he said in remarks to the nation alongside Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House on Tuesday evening.
Mr Biden called systemic racism a “stain on our nation’s soul” after Ms Harris demanded that the lives of Americans of colour be “valued in our education system, in our healthcare system, in our housing system, in our economic system, in our criminal justice system, in our nation, full stop.”
“The knee on the neck of justice for Black Americans,” Mr Biden said, referring to now-former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin holding his knee into the back of Mr Floyd’s neck for nine minutes.
Chauvin, who is white, was found guilty on Tuesday of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He could face up to 40 years in prison.
The 12-person jury delivered a verdict after three weeks of testimony and nine hours of deliberation nearly one year after Mr Floyd’s death on 25 May, 2020.
Mr Harris said systemic racism is “not just a Black American problem, or a people of colour problem – it is problem for every American.”
“It is keeping us from fulfilling the promise of liberty and just ice for all, and holding our nation back from realising our full potential,” she said.
The president and vice president watched the verdict with staff in the Private Dining Room.
He then spoke with Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, then Mr Biden, Ms Harris and First Lady Jill Biden spoke briefly with members of Mr Floyd’s family.
“Nothing can ever bring their brother, their father, back, but this can be giant step forward towards justice in America,” Mr Biden said in his address.