Wednesday, April 21, 2021

ACLU and other organizations react to Derek Chauvin's conviction by calling for police reform, including passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

While I've commented a lot about the public and media reaction to the — now I can say it — murder of George Floyd, I haven't commented on the crime itself other than to examine police behavior in general. I certainly have kept mum about the trial, as whatever I would write would have no effect on the result; I've been disappointed enough by trial outcomes not to get the hopes of myself or my readers up. Now that the jury has reached its verdict, it's time to say something. For that, I'm outsourcing my reaction to the professionals at the civil rights, voting rights, and other good government nonprofits that Coffee Party USA lists as partners. So many of them issued statements that I decided to compile them here and share this post instead of sharing the press releases individually to the Coffee Party USA Facebook page. That would have taken all week and I think this will have more impact.

I begin with the American Civil Liberties Union: ACLU Statement on Derek Chauvin Guilty Verdict.
A jury has found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all charges in the murder of George Floyd.

The following statement can be attributed to Jason Williamson, deputy director of the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project:

“George Floyd will never make his way home to play games with his daughter, Gianna. He’ll never go on walks through the park with his beloved fiancée Courteney or play basketball with his brother, Philonise. While today’s verdict is a step forward in the fight for police accountability and may help heal a grieving community, the systems that allowed a police officer to murder Mr. Floyd, ripping him away from his family and the communities that loved him so much, remain fully intact. These are the same systems that resulted in the death of another 20-year-old Black man at the hands of police less than 10 miles from this trial.

“Honoring the lives of George Floyd, Daunte Wright, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and countless other Black lives violently taken at the hands of police means that elected officials, activists, organizations like the ACLU, and regular people must not allow this verdict to lull us into a place of complacency. Instead, we must renew our conviction to create a world where police do not have the opportunity to use violence and harassment to target Black people as police have been doing since their inception as slave patrols created to monitor, control, and oppress Black communities. This new world includes removing police entirely from low-level enforcement and massively reinvesting in the communities that desperately want more for the legacies of their fallen. And we will fight with them to get there.”

The following statement can be attributed to John Gordon, executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota:

“Today, for the first time in state history, a white police officer has been held accountable for killing a Black man. Now, we can finally say George Floyd’s name and make it synonymous not only with grief, anger, and loss over his brutal murder, but with a moment of justice. But to be clear, true justice would mean George Floyd was alive today, with his fiancée, his daughter, and his family.

“While this verdict brings a certain rare form of accountability for police, achieving this outcome for Mr. Floyd is only one step in addressing police abuse of power, disparate treatment, and excessive force against Black and Brown communities. We still must radically change policing in Minnesota and across the country, increase accountability and transparency, and create policies that combat racism in policing.

“The jury's decision to convict Derek Chauvin does not negate the fact that Mr. Floyd’s tragic murder is part of a horrifying local and national pattern of officers using excessive force against people of color. Mr. Floyd was one of more than 5,000 people killed by police since 2015.

“Mr. Floyd should not have died under an officer’s knee — he should still be alive today. So should Daunte Wright, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black people killed by police.

“Our elected officials, activists, communities, and organizations, including the ACLU of Minnesota, must continue to fight for racial justice in Mr. Floyd’s name. We must re-examine our entire system of public safety and public health, and root out the racism that pervades law enforcement. We must prohibit police mistreatment of communities of color, which leads to people being both underserved and overpoliced. We must divert funding from traditional policing toward community-based services, such as crisis teams, so all communities are truly safe. We must remove police from enforcing traffic infractions and low-level offenses. Taking another person’s life is the most extreme action a police officer can take, and new standards for use of force, along with increased accountability and transparency, are needed to ensure that police violence and killings end.

“We join with Mr. Floyd’s family, our community, and our nation in mourning his death. We will never forget to ‘Say His Name.’ Together, we’ll work to ensure that one day, we can remember George Floyd in celebration of the true justice for all achieved in his name.”
The ACLU understands what "defund the police" really means. In addition, while the ACLU didn't mention the federal George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in yesterday's press release, it expressed its conditional support for the 2020 version of the bill and has a petition page to support the Texas version of the bill.

Follow over the jump for more press releases about the crime, the verdict, and what it means from Common Cause, the League of Conservation Voters, the League of Women Voters, People for the American Way, and Public Citizen, all of whom have expressed support for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act or its predecessor, the 2020 Justice in Policing Act.

Next in alphabetical order, I'm quoting Conviction of Derek Chauvin for George Floyd’s Murder Does Not Alleviate Need for Policing Reforms from Common Cause.
Statement of Annastacia Belladonna-Carrera, Executive Director of Common Cause Minnesota

George Floyd should be alive today. A verdict simply signals due process, something that Mr. Floyd and others in Minnesota have been denied after basic interaction with police. Real justice for George Floyd and his family, comes from moving commonsense policing reforms so what happened to Mr. Floyd doesn’t happen again. Only the people united for change can deliver the reforms needed in our state. Minnesota legislators recently had the opportunity to bring commonsense accountability to the police but the Senate failed to act. Gov. Walz, Melissa Hortman, Speaker of the House, and Paul Gazelka, Senate Majority Leader must put policing reforms among their top priorities as they meet behind closed doors to negotiate bills. The people of Minnesota deserve better, and we – the people – will rightly continue to demand human rights, accountability, change, and justice for all Minnesotans.

Statement of Karen Hobert Flynn, President of Common Cause

Today’s conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd is a small step but we still have so far to go to address the underlying racism, police brutality, and lack of police accountability behind it. The conviction represents accountability but not justice.

George’s Floyd’s murder must serve as one more catalyst to bring about systemic change and dismantle the white supremacy that drives deadly policing in the United States.

In the wake of this conviction, so much more must still be done to bring about equal justice for Black Americans. Unchecked police brutality continues to claim the lives of far too many Black and Brown people and it must be ended.

Yet in some states, legislators not only refuse to take steps to address this deadly crisis but instead are passing laws to criminalize peaceful protests. This cannot go unchallenged.

As a nation, we must acknowledge the systemic racism that has been ingrained in the fabric of our nation since its founding. We must fight racism wherever it exists: in our communities, at the ballot box, in our justice system, and in our legislative bodies.

White Americans do not fully grasp the fear, the horror, and the anxiety Black and Brown people feel every day as they go about their daily lives. Policing too often reflects a double standard, and people of color continue to die at the hands of law enforcement officers in absolutely unacceptable numbers. The tragic pattern must end now.

Undaunted, we must build a real democracy where every person can feel safe, thrive, and have a voice. We must continue to work to establish a country where equal justice under the law is a reality for everyone and not an impossibility for Black, Brown, and Indigenous people.

Statement of Keshia Morris Desir, Common Cause Census and Mass Incarceration Project Manager

The tragic, brutal, and unnecessary murder of George Floyd is one from a seemingly endless string. The murder of Daunte Wright gunned down just days ago during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb, and the murders of Breonna Taylor, Adam Toledo, Alton Sterling, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and countless other Black and Brown Americans must spur our nation to enact serious and lasting reforms. It is vital that Congress start by enacting long-overdue reforms by passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

Common Cause strongly backs this legislation that would create a national use of force standard, it will prohibit no-knock warrants for drug offenses, and it would ban chokeholds and police profiling. Further it would end qualified immunity, make it easier to prosecute police officers for misconduct, and establish a national police misconduct registry. The bill would also end the transfer of certain military equipment that has led to the militarization of many police departments.

These common-sense reforms can begin to bring about substantive changes and stem the tide of police racism and brutality in our nation. Far more must be done, but this legislation represents a first step.
In addition to a general civil rights agenda, Common Cause has a specific legislative goal, passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. That's a concrete item to support.

In contrast to the longer winded statements of the ACLU and Common Cause, the League of Conservation Voters issued a brief press release, LCV Statement on Chauvin Guilty Verdict.
In response to the jury’s finding that Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is guilty on all murder charges for killing George Floyd, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) issued the following statement from Chief Officer for Racial Justice and Equity Leslie R. Hinkson:

“No court verdict will ever deliver real justice for racist, state-sanctioned violence against Black people. Nor can it erase the collective pain and trauma of those across the country, particularly Black people, who have had to repeatedly witness George Floyd’s murder, and live through more of these deaths even as this trial was underway. Today we are grateful that George Floyd’s killer will face consequences, yet we simultaneously grieve for Floyd, for Daunte Wright, for Adam Toledo, and for every Black, Indigenous and person of color who has endured systemic racism and abusive policing practices for generations. Real justice requires comprehensive policing reform and transforming the institution to protect all communities, rather than protecting some at the expense of others[.]

“LCV exists to protect our planet and everyone who inhabits it — but this work means nothing if Black communities are not safe in the very environment we’re fighting for. No one should fear persecution or death because of the color of their skin. Black Lives Matter.”
While the national LCV did not mention the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the California chapter did in CLCV Statement on Derek Chauvin Guilty Verdict.
The California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV) released the following statement in response to the jury’s verdict, finding Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all charges for the murder of George Floyd last year.

Statement from the California League of Conservation Voters:

"The guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial provides a rare glimmer of hope that our criminal legal system is capable of delivering accountability for police violence. This is a small signal to every Black person, Indigenous person, AAPI person, Latinx person, and all people of color that their lives actually matter in this country. But dismantling White Supremacy and systemic racism as the foundation of our current policing and criminal legal system will take much, much more than one verdict. This verdict does not make a family whole, it does not erase the grief and trauma of generations of violence and murder and it is not justice—it is accountability. This comes after decades of struggle from leaders, organizers, and activists. Too many families, children, and friends have lost, and continue to lose, loved ones to police brutality.

Along with the recent New York State Supreme Court ruling in favor of Cariol Horne, a former police officer who was fired after stopping a colleague’s violent chokehold, this verdict illustrates that change is possible. Today, we can stand in the knowledge that documenting injustice and coming together for what is right, can make a difference in individual battles. However, the greater fight continues and must include immediate local, state, and federal policy changes like The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021.

Collectively, we must stay focused on accountability through sentencing in the weeks to come, for the hundreds of other murders at the hands of police in just the last year, and on passing the comprehensive policy change needed to deliver true public safety and justice for all."
I'm counting this as LCV support for the bill.

Now for the LWV Joint Statement on Derek Chauvin Trial Verdict, which I already shared at the Coffee Party USA Facebook page this morning.
Today the League of Women Voters of the United States issued the following joint statement with the League of Women Voters of Minnesota and the League of Women Voters of Minneapolis in response to the conviction of George Floyd’s murderer:

“Today, the police officer responsible for the murder of George Floyd was held accountable for his crime.

“While the decision to convict George Floyd’s murderer was just, it does not remedy the undeniable fact that policing in America is fundamentally broken.

“The United States’ system of law enforcement, which was built on the legacy of slavery and racism, has stolen the lives of Black and brown Americans for centuries, almost completely unchecked.

“Making one man answer for his crimes does not equal justice. This conviction was an outlier in a system built on white supremacy. Accountability and the eradication of racially-motivated violence should be the norm, not an exception. Police officers must be held to the same level of accountability as everyone else.

“We must radically reimagine public safety in this country and prioritize investments in economic opportunities, education, healthcare, and other community-led solutions, instead of perpetuating police violence.

“Our thoughts are with the family of George Floyd. We hope that this decision provides a modicum of peace amid this tragedy.

“Today’s decision must represent a turning point as we work towards true reform of policing in this country.”
While yesterday's statement does not mention the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, LWV issued LWV Statement on the Justice in Policing Act last summer supporting last year's version of the bill. In addition, the Wisconsin chapter tweeted out the following image outlining the bill.

That's support enough for me.

Continuing to the second half of the alphabet, People For the American Way Responds to Verdict in Chauvin Trial.
Following today’s verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial, People For the American Way President Ben Jealous released the following statement:

“From the moment the world first saw the searing images of George Floyd’s brutal murder, it was clear that no outcome other than a conviction of his killer would serve justice. This is a day of deep gratitude for the accountability that has come, for the masterful work of Keith Ellison and his team in ensuring justice in this case, and for the way in which the conscience of a nation was awakened by this tragedy. At the same time, it is still a day of grief for the man who will never return to his family and for so many Black Americans murdered and maimed by law enforcement. For centuries, American law enforcement has carried out these attacks with impunity; for decades, since the beating of Rodney King, even video evidence of those attacks has failed to bring accountability. That changed today, but this work doesn’t stop today.

“There must be a federal investigation of broader problems of police abuse that led to this case in Minneapolis, as well as continuing issues in nearby communities like Brooklyn Center and communities around the nation. We must pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act at the federal level, which will not solve every problem but is a good start. And we must do the hard work of fundamentally changing policing at the local level, which is happening across the country from the state level to the city and county level, where we are seeing some really innovative solutions proposed in places like Ithaca, New York. This work demands the full commitment of our hearts and souls to rooting out systemic racism in our justice system, so no family ever needs to grieve again as George Floyd’s family is grieving now. We can and will succeed in this work, and George Floyd’s death will not be in vain.”
Like the ACLU, Common Cause, LCV, and League of Women Voters, People for the American Way supports the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in addition to its call for federal investigation of policing. I can get behind that.

The last press release I'm sharing today is Public Citizen Statement on the Conviction of Derek Chauvin.
Today, former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of the murder of George Floyd. Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, released the following statement:

“Nothing will bring George Floyd back to his family or his community. And there should be nothing to celebrate in a jury doing its job in finding Derek Chauvin guilty of the crime the whole world saw him commit. Nonetheless, in a country where police are rarely held criminally liable for murdering people, especially Black and brown people, this is an important moment.

“Refusing to tolerate the police killing of yet another Black person, Black communities across the country responded to the murder of George Floyd with righteous anger, insistent demands for justice and love, and forced the country to be a national reckoning on racism and police violence.

“Holding abusive police to account – including through criminal prosecution – is necessary but not close to sufficient, not when it comes to police violence and certainly not when it comes to redressing systemic racism.

“What all of us owe to George Floyd and his family, to Daunte Wright, Breonna Taylor and their families and to far too many others is a commitment to continue relentlessly the fight for racial justice.”
Public Citizen's message is "Keep up 'The Good Fight.'"* However, they did advocate for passing the 2020 Justice in Policing Act, so they have pushed for the same realistic and concrete solution every other organization I quoted, even if some haven't come out for the current version and others have done so at the state and not national level. The BREATHE Act might be a better solution, but it hasn't even had a hearing, while the House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act the House passed again last month and President Biden announced his support yesterday, so the bill is now waiting to be acted on in the Senate. Politics is the art of the possible and it's better to work on something that actually has a chance of being enacted into law.

Speaking of law, I might have a post on election legislation later today. If not, stay tuned for Earth Day tomorrow.

*I couldn't resist the reference. Besides, the show might rip this story from the headlines as a plot for its fifth season. Whether it does or doesn't, I'm looking forward to it.

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