Biden says George Floyd's death showed 'knee on the neck of justice'

‘Systemic racism is a stain on our nation’s soul’: Joe Biden says George Floyd’s killing revealed ‘the knee on the neck of justice for black Americans’

  • President Joe Biden told the nation Tuesday that the verdict in the Derek Chauvin case sends the message that no one is ‘above the law’ 
  • He demanded new action to honor George Floyd after a killing he called a ‘stain on the nation’s soul’ 
  • Biden spoke from the White House’s Cross Hall after a jury turned in Tuesday’s guilty verdict against ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin
  • The president said after the verdict it was time for the nation to ‘come together.’ 
  • ‘It was a murder in the full light of day and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism,’ Biden said  

President Joe Biden told the nation Tuesday that the verdict in the Derek Chauvin case sends the message that no one is ‘above the law’ – as he demanded new action to honor George Floyd after a killing he called a ‘stain on the nation’s soul.’

Biden spoke from the White House’s Cross Hall after a jury turned in Tuesday’s guilty verdict against Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer.

‘No one should be above the law. And today’s verdict sends that message. But it’s not enough. It can’t stop here,’ Biden said.

‘No one should be above the law. And today’s verdict sends that message. But it’s not enough. It can’t stop here,’ President Joe Biden said in a speech to the nation following a guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial

He said after the verdict it was time for the nation to ‘come together.’ 

And he used graphic language to describe Floyd’s killing during his arrest in May. He compared systemic racism he said permeates the nation to ‘the knee on the neck of justice for black Americans.’

Biden described the graphic murder of Floyd that was captured on video and watched by onlookers in horror, while seeking to steer the national attention toward reforms. Public officials had been bracing for potential protests in the event of a partial acquittal.

‘It was a murder in the full light of day and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism the vice president just referred to,’ Biden said. 

He made his remarks after Vice President Kamala Harris called for passage of the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act, which she co-introduced last summer when she was in the Senate. 

‘We still must reform the system,’ Harris said during her introduction. 

‘This bill is part of George Floyd’s legacy.’ 

She pointed out the country’s history of systemic racism.  

‘Black Americans and black men in particular have been treated throughout the course of our history as less than human,’ Harris said. 

‘Black men are fathers, and brothers, and sons, and uncles, and grandfathers, and friends, and neighbors,’ she continued. ‘Their lives must be valued in our education system, in our health-care system, in our housing system, in our economic system, in our criminal-justice system, in our nation.’ 

Turning to Floyd, Harris that ‘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, that my parents protested in the 1960s. That millions of us – Americans of every race – protested last summer,’ the vice president said.  

Vice President Kamala Harris called for action on the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act

Biden said the event illustrated ‘the pain the exhaustion that black and brown Americans experience every single day.’

He called the verdict ‘a step forward’ – and said it ‘could be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America.’

He also pointed out that the verdict was ‘much too rare,’ a reference to the relative paucity of convictions when police are charged.

The president pointed to such factors as a ‘brave young woman smart phone,’ a ‘traumatized’ crowd by a ‘murder that lasted almost 10 minutes in broad daylight’ – as well as officers who stood up and testified ‘instead of just closing ranks.’

He said that action ‘should be commended,’ and hailed the jury he said carried out ‘their civic duty.’ 

The president referred to the ‘trauma’ he said ‘so many people of color live with every day. And they go to sleep at night, and pray for the safety of themselves and their loved ones.’ 

He noted how Floyd’s murder – a term he used repeatedly now that the jury has spoken – ‘launched a summer of protests we haven’t seen since the Civil Rights era in the 60s. ‘Protests that unified people of every race, generation in peace and with purpose to say: Enough. Enough. Enough of the senseless killings.’ 

Biden and Harris spoke as their spouses looked on from the grand staircase. 

More than a dozen White House staffers also looked on – having to share the house’s grand entranceway with about two dozen reporters. 

Biden phoned family members and lawyers for George Floyd just minutes after a Minnesota jury returned a guilty verdict in the trial that captured the nation’s attention, as he again consoled family members and celebrated a verdict that he said would ‘change the world.’

Biden phoned along with Vice President Kamala Harris and first lady Jill Biden. And in a modern twist, lead attorney Benjamin Crump played the call on speaker phone – with the discussion instantly beamed around the world on social media and cable news.

‘Feeling better now,’ Biden told tearful family members and listeners who gathered around Philonise Floyd’s phone.  ‘Nothing is going to make it all better. But at least, God, now there’s some justice,’ Biden said.

President Joe Biden phoned family members and lawyers for George Floyd and lawyer Benjamin Crump on Tuesday following the verdict in the Derek Chauvin case

Biden referenced comments by Floyd’s daughter, Gianna, that her late father was going to change the world. ‘He’s going to start to change it now,’ Biden told the group. 

Biden previously revealed he also called the family Monday, with the outcome uncertain – and as the White House noted repeatedly, the jury was sequestered.

He told the family afterward: ‘You’re an incredible family.  I wish I were there – just [to] put my arms around you.’

He told them he was with White House advisor, former Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, while making the call, which Biden made from the Oval Office.

‘We’ve been watching every second of this, and the vice president, all of us.  We were all so relieved, not just one verdict but all three,’ Biden said. 

Crump tweeted out video of the exchange. 

Benjamin Crump tweeted out the exchange.  He laughed when Biden said he wanted to provide family members a ride on Air Force One during a future trip to Washington

‘It’s really important. I’m anxious to see you guys, I really am.  We’re going to get a lot more done,’ he promised them. ‘We’re going to stay at it until we get it done,’ Biden said.

That prompted Crump to push Biden to act on and sign the George Floyd policing act, which is stalled in the Senate.  

‘You got it pal.  That and a lot more,’ Biden promised. He said the outcome ‘provided a fresh shot at dealing with genuine systemic racism.’ 

Harris, the nation’s first black and first female vice president, also spoke. ‘I’m just so grateful fo the entire family,’ she said, saluting ‘your courage, your commitment.’

‘This is a day of justice in America,’ Harris said. She called the family ‘real leaders when we needed you.’

‘History will look back at this moment and know that it was an inflection moment,’ she said. ‘We’re going to make something good come out of this tragedy, okay?’ she said. 

Then Biden chimed back in. ‘When we do it, we’re going to put you on Air Force One and get you here,’ he said, prompting laughs.

‘We’re going to hold you to that, President Biden,’ Crump responded.  

Earlier Tuesday, Biden said he was praying for the ‘right verdict’ in George Floyd trial and called the evidence ‘overwhelming’ in series of extraordinary comments that come as the jury begins its second day of deliberations in the Derek Chauvin case.

‘I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict. Which is – I think it’s overwhelming in my view,’ Biden told reporters in the Oval office. ‘I wouldn’t say that unless the jury was sequestered now.’

The White House later claimed Biden wasn’t advocating for a particular verdict but expressing compassion for the Floyd family.

‘I don’t think he would see it as weighing in on the verdict,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at her press briefing. ‘He was conveying what many people are feeling across the country, which is compassion for the family.’

She indicated Biden could have more to say after the verdict is rendered. Biden is weighing an address to the nation, according to reports.

‘I expect that he will weigh in more, further, once there is a verdict and I’m not going to provide additional analysis on what he meant,’ Psaki said, declining to clarify if Biden wanted Chauvin found guilty on all charges.

She defended Biden’s comments, saying the president had closely followed the trial, has gotten close to the Floyd family and waited to speak until the jury was sequestered.

Biden called Floyd’s brother Philonise on Monday after the jury went behind closed doors for their deliberations on the charges of murder and manslaughter against Chauvin. The president noted he waited until the jury was sequestered to make the call and to comment on the case.

‘I’ve come to know George’s family,’ Biden said as he added he ‘can only imagine the pressure and anxiety they’re feeling.’

Biden has denounced Floyd’s death but had stopped short of weighing in on the trial until now. His extraordinary comments come as the 12-member jury began its second day behind closed doors and the nation waits for their decision.

The president’s comments also come amid growing anger among Republicans for Rep. Maxine Waters’ calling for Chauvin to be found guilty and for Black Lives Matter protesters to be ‘more confrontational’.

The California Democrat sparked outrage by travelling to Minneapolis on Saturday and urging protesters to ‘get more confrontational’ if Chauvin was acquitted. She later said she was not urging violence and accused Republicans of twisting her words. She was back on Capitol Hill Tuesday, presiding over the House Financial Services Committee, which she chairs. Democrats have defended her remarks.

Waters’ comments over the weekend, on the eve of the jury retiring to consider its verdict, may have handed Chauvin’s defense grounds for appeal and the turning over of any guilty verdict. The judge on Monday said ‘I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case.’

The White House also has stood by Waters.

‘The congresswoman has provided further clarification of her own remarks and I would certainly point you to that,’ Psaki said on Tuesday.

The White House press secretary also dismissed a question on whether there were worries Biden’s hope for a ‘right verdict’ would spark violence if that wasn’t the outcome.

‘Regardless of the outcome, the president has consistently called for peace,’ Psaki said, adding Biden supports peaceful protests.

She noted Biden understands the pain minority communities are feeling and their worries about their treatment at the hands of law enforcement.

‘He also understands this is an extremely painful moment for many people in this country who are exhausted, who are tired of seeing one person after another lose their life at the hands of law enforcement,’ she said. ‘He’s aware of that and the need for reform.’

Meanwhile, Philonise Floyd said Biden, who has buried a wife and two children, spoke to him about what it’s like to lose a family member.

‘He was just calling. He knows how it is to lose a family member. And he knows that the process of what we’re going through so he was just letting us know that he was praying for us, and hoping that everything would come out to be okay,’ Philonise told NBC’s Today on Tuesday morning.

Floyd said he is ‘optimistic’ about the coming verdict in his brother’s murder trial. ‘Hopefully it will be the way the world wants to see it,’ he noted. He also expressed his hope for peace when the trial ends.

‘We just want everyone to be peaceful’, he added, as Minneapolis braces for the verdict and the White House figures out how to deal with any potential fallout.

More than 3,000 Minnesota National Guard members have been activated and hundreds marched through the streets of Minneapolis on Monday night as the US waits for the outcome of the trial.

Scroll down for video 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden wasn’t weighing in on the verdict but expressing concern about the Floyd family

Rep. Maxine Waters was on Capitol Hill Tuesday presiding over the House Financial Services Committee amid growing Republican anger at her comments on the Derek Chauvin case 

George Floyd’s brother Philonise reveals President Biden called him on Monday when the jury was sent out to deliberate in Derek Chauvins’ trial

Philonise went on to say: ‘I just feel that in America, if a Black man can’t get justice for this, what can a Black man get justice for?’ 

Biden is monitoring the trial and is concerned that a verdict may inflame racial tensions at a time when multiple U.S. cities are on edge following police killings.

George W. Bush also discussed the verdict in an interview with Today on Tuesday morning. ‘I think the first thing is, Hoda, that people know that the trial has been conducted fairly. And that rule of law reigns supreme in our judiciary. We’ll see what a jury of his peers says, you know, I think a lot of people have already made up their mind what the verdict ought to be.

‘All I can tell you is that if the trial is not conducted fairly, there is an appeal process. One of the things that we learned after the storming of the Capitol was our institutions held, and one of the institutions that is really important for the confidence of the American people is a fair judicial system.’ 

The footage of Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck during Floyd’s arrest last summer set off protests in Minneapolis and around the country. 

If the Chauvin jury should deliver a verdict this week or next, the results would come amid renewed tensions in communities where police have shot suspects during traffic stops and arrests – along with sharp splits over efforts to control the coronavirus and a new spate of mass shootings. 

The prosecution argued Chauvin ‘had to know’ that he was killing Floyd when the officer had his knee on his back as the man was handcuffed. The defense, meanwhile, asked the jury of 12 people – six white, four black and two multiracial –  to consider the ‘totality of the circumstances.’ The defense argued Chauvin behaved as any ‘reasonable’ officer would have and said that Floyd died of a combination of drugs in his system and preexisting health issues, not Chauvin’s knee.

Meanwhile, Waters, 82, defiantly insisted on Monday afternoon that she stood by her words.

‘The judge says my words don’t matter,’ she told CNN.

When pressed on the judge stating that her remarks could be grounds for appeal, she replied: ‘Oh no, no they didn’t.’

She insisted she was entirely justified in her call to action, saying: ‘The whole Civil Rights movement is confrontational.’

Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is introducing a resolution for Waters to be censured and says she ‘incited violence’ with her remarks.

He believes up to 15 Democrats could back the motion to censure and said Waters ‘believes there is value in violence’. McCarthy would need Democratic support to get the censure resolution passed.

Democrats including Nancy Pelosi have said she shouldn’t apologize for her comments.

The White House also refused to condemn Waters comments. Biden’s press secretary said on Monday that protests should be ‘peaceful’, but did not respond to Waters’ comments directly. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed the call and said the President wanted to ‘check in’ with Floyd’s family

Waters (D – California) had joined protesters in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center on Saturday night for a demonstration over the death of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old black man shot dead by a white police officer during a traffic stop on April 11.

Waters told the protesters that she will fight for justice on their behalf and urged them to ‘to get more confrontational’ – just one day after protests descended into violence.  

Following closing arguments on Monday, the jurors retired to deliberate as demonstrators took to the streets of Minneapolis. 

Images showed hundreds marching through the city demanding justice for Floyd while waving Black Lives Matter flags and holding signs that read ‘Blue Lives Murder’.

Demonstrators gathered outside the Hennepin County courthouse, which is surrounded by high fences and concrete barricades topped with barbed wire. 

National Guard members are seen through fencing and wire near the Minneapolis Police 3rd Precinct in Minneapolis

Local organizer Brandyn Tulloch speaks to the crowd during a demonstration on Monday

Protesters take to the street in Minneapolis as jurors begin deliberations following the trial of former Officer Derek Chauvin

Protesters gathered in Minneapolis on Monday as the jury started their deliberations toward a verdict in the case against Derek Chauvin, who faces murder and manslaughter charges in the death of George Floyd

Protesters held signs that demanded justice for George Floyd as the jury was retired to consider their verdict 

‘I hope we get a verdict that says guilty, guilty, guilty,’ she said of the Chauvin trial. ‘And if we don’t, we cannot go away. We’ve got to stay on the street. We get more active, we’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.’ 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell likewise went after Waters on Monday, telling colleagues: ‘It’s harder to imagine anything more inappropriate than a member of Congress flying in from California to inform local leaders – not so subtly – that this defendant had better be found guilty or else there will be big trouble in the streets.’ 

The Kentucky Republican said that Waters’ demand for a guilty verdict was ‘like somebody window-shopping or ordering off a menu.’  

‘Every single American deserves a fair trial. This is sacred. You do not balance the scales of justice by trying to tip them,’ McConnell said.  

The top Senate Republican noted that through much of the country’s ‘quest for civil rights and equal justice has been the fight to get rid of extra-judicial violence, to get rid of rigged trials where the outcome was molded by public sentiment or angry mob.’  

‘It is beyond the pale for a sitting member of the United States Congress to look at what happened last summer and imply there should be some kind of a sequel if a legal case does not unfold as she thinks it should,’ he said. 

Republican House Whip Steve Scalise said: ‘Let’s be clear: Maxine Waters knew her rhetoric would incite violence in Minneapolis—but she doesn’t care, she just requests police escorts for herself. I was shot because of this kind of dangerous rhetoric. Where is the outrage from Dems & the media? They need to condemn this.’

Scalise was shot in 2017 by left-wing activist James Hodgkinson during a charity Congressional Baseball Game in Alexandria, Virginia. The Virginia Attorney General concluded that Hodgkinson’s attack was an ‘act of terrorism fueled by rage against Republican legislators’.  

During an interview with on Fox News Primetime, McCarthy said the congresswoman ‘believes there is value in violence’.

‘And now what she has said has even put doubt into a jury,’ McCarthy said, referring to the George Floyd jury that started deliberations on Monday in the murder trial of former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin. 

‘You had a judge announce that it was wrong. I think this takes action especially when she has a pattern of this behavior,’ McCarthy continued. 

He was referring to Waters’ 2018 remarks when she told Californians to ‘get in the face’ of Trump administration staffers if they see them in public. 

McCarthy said he believes there are ‘probably 10 to 15’ Democrats who would vote for censure. 

‘It will all come down to the pressure of what Democrats will put on them to just try to vote to table it – not even to have the discussion,’ he added. 

But many of these Republicans accusing Waters of inciting violence did not make the same charge against then-President Donald Trump in the wake of the January 6th MAGA riot on Capitol Hill, that left five dead and trail of destruction throughout the Capitol.

McCarthy did take to the House floor to declare Trump, who riled up the crowd with his false claims the election was stolen, ‘bears responsibility’ for the attack on Congress. McCarthy later flew to Mar-a-Lago to make peace with the former president after Trump became furious at him for his words. 

And Scalise argued Trump used the words ‘peaceful’ when he talked about protesting the election results.

‘President Trump use the words peaceful when he talked about, you know, the statements that he made. I haven’t heard Maxine saying anything about peacefully protesting. She’s talked about violence,’ Scalise said on Tuesday.  

Waters (D – California) had joined protesters in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center on Saturday night for a demonstration over the death of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old black man shot dead by a white police officer during a traffic stop on April 11

Maxine Waters’ history of defending violence: Democrat called the deadly 1992 LA riots a ‘rebellion’ and told her supporters to confront Trump cabinet members in the street  


Waters refused to call the violence in Los Angeles in 1992 a riot, instead dubbing it a ‘rebellion’ – even though her office was burned down during the unrest.

The riots ensued after the acquittal of four LAPD officers who beat Rodney King, a black man. A video of the incident was captured and circulated.

‘There are those who would like for me … to tell people to go inside, to be peaceful, that they have to accept the verdict,’ Waters said during a 1992 press conference.

‘I accept the responsibility of asking people not to endanger their lives. I am not asking people not to be angry,’ she continued.

‘I am angry, and I have a right to that anger, and the people out there have a right to that anger.’

The death toll from the riots reached 64, which included nine shot by law enforcement. Of the dead, 28 were black. Reports at the time indicate as many as 2,383 people were injured in some capacity. 

Waters insisted that the majority of the looting in LA during that time was just so poor mothers could get necessities for their children.

Waters and then-President Bill Clinton tour Los Angeles in May 1992 after rioters burnt buildings to the ground in violent riots

At the time, she called the violence ‘a spontaneous reaction to a lot of injustice and a lot of alienation and frustration.’

‘There were mothers who took this as an opportunity to take some milk, to take some bread, to take some shoes. Maybe they shouldn’t have done it, but the atmosphere was such that they did it. They are not crooks,’ Waters defended while speaking on Michael Jackson’s KABC radio talk show in 1992.

She also told a Los Angeles Times reporter at the time: ‘One lady said her children didn’t have any shoes. She just saw those shoes there, a chance for all of her children to have new shoes. God damn it! It was such a tear-jerker. I might have gone in and taken them for her myself.’

Waters said her office burning down in the riots was not personal. She said she wasn’t ‘angry at all’ and the office was just ‘one of the victims of the rebellion.’ 

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