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Minutes after a triple guilty verdict came down against former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin, leaders in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania expressed their support.
The jury’s ruling secured second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges against Chauvin, whose 2020 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis spurred the largest civil rights uprising in decades.
Philadelphia became a flashpoint in the national response, after police used tear gas on demonstrators and clashes between residents and law enforcement erupted in multiple neighborhoods. The city’s mishandling of the protests led to widespread condemnation, apology from elected officials, and even reproach from the United Nations.
Nearly a year later, as the world watched Chauvin’s trial in Minneapolis, Philly officials outlined plans to have clergy and violence prevention volunteers accompany police in case of possible demonstrations following the verdict. They also brought in Pa. National Guard troops to help with possible patrols. However, though businesses from Center City to 52nd Street had boarded up their windows Tuesday in preparation for the worst, the guilty verdict came out, and protests did not erupt.
District Attorney Larry Krasner, whose office is pursuing a murder case against a Philadelphia police officer for the first time in two decades, said it was “the only right and just verdict in this case.”
“To hear guilty three times in this case I think was very important,” Krasner told WHYY News. “It proves that transformational change in criminal justice is possible, and that police accountability is possible.”
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw called “the actions and inactions of officers at the scene of his death” both “enraging and devastating,” nodding generally to PPD’s long history of police brutality.
“This disturbing act not only ignited the long-suppressed emotions of thousands of people across the country, it stirred up the hurt felt by Black and Brown citizens who have been victimized and minimized for hundreds of years in the United States,” Outlaw said.
Adding to that, Mayor Jim Kenney said “the verdict doesn’t change the fact that [Floyd] should be alive today, and should at this very moment be enjoying his family and his freedom.”
In Congress, local leaders emphasized that more work remains to be done — with U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans noting that a proposed law named after Floyd, which would ban chokeholds and restrict certain legal protections for officers, still faces a vote in the U.S. Senate.
Many leaders shared a message about the Chauvin verdict as accountability rather than justice. “While Derek Chauvin will be held accountable for the murder of George Floyd, it’s not enough,” said U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, of Pennsylvania, in a statement.
Floyd’s murder drew swift condemnation from other law enforcement officials across the country, including those in Chuavin’s ranks, some of whom testified against him in trail. In Philadelphia, police union leader John McNesby tweeted a picture of a “Back the Blue” flag ahead of the verdict with a message for his department: “Be safe, be smart, and go home. We are behind you.”
McNesby did not immediately elaborate on that statement following the verdict’s release. The national Fraternal Order of Police said “the trial was fair and due process was served.”
Following Floyd’s murder last summer, and the avalanche of calls for police reform that followed, McNesby criticisied Chauvin’s tactics.
“Law enforcement across the country is suffering because of those couple of a-holes in Minneapolis — and you can quote me on that — choking the life out of a guy,” McNesby said at the time. “Now the reform talk is kicked back up again. I have zero problem with sitting down and discussing anything with anybody.”
Other local leaders — from government agencies to labor unions to legal organizations to sports teams — echoed the outpouring of support for the verdict.