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Lawmakers react to Chauvin verdict with relief, calls for policing reform

MICHELLE STODDART
·3 min read

As the verdicts were being read in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin on Tuesday evening in Minneapolis, 56 Black members of Congress huddled together on Capitol Hill holding their collective breath.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on April 20, 2021, after the jury returned guilty verdicts in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on April 20, 2021, after the jury returned guilty verdicts in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The Congressional Black Caucus, gathered to watch the verdicts handed down, then came to the cameras, with Chair Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, telling reporters that while the group "certainly" agrees with the guilty verdicts, this is "just a first step."

MORE: Nation reacts to Derek Chauvin verdict: Live updates

"We will fight continuously for all of those who died or have been injured senselessly by law enforcement," Beatty said. "We know that there are still the mothers, the families, the children who are shedding tears today, because the verdict will not bring back their family."

Rep. Cori Bush, a Missouri Democrat, lamented that these situations had become so commonplace, saying stopping them is her goal as a lawmaker.

MORE: Derek Chauvin found guilty on all counts in death of George Floyd

PHOTO: Rep. Cori Bush and Rep. Ayanna Pressley walk with their arms around each other to a news conference following the verdict in the Derick Chauvin murder trial at the U.S. Capitol on April 20, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Rep. Cori Bush and Rep. Ayanna Pressley walk with their arms around each other to a news conference following the verdict in the Derick Chauvin murder trial at the U.S. Capitol on April 20, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

"This was accountability, but it's not yet justice," Bush said. "Justice for us is saving lives."

Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., said that it is crucial that Congress pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, saying that since his death, many other Americans have died at the hands of law enforcement.

"So now we have to focus on transforming policing in the United States since George Floyd's murder of a year ago -- over 100 people have died at the hands of police," Bass said. "As a matter of fact, since the trial started on March 29, 63 people have died at the hands of police. In my opinion, this is (a) human rights issue in the United States of America "

MORE: Biden, Harris to speak on the Chauvin verdict

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which among other provisions bans the use of police chokeholds, passed in the House by a vote of 220-212 last month but has since stalled in the Senate. Shortly after the Floyd verdict was handed down, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced that the committee would hold a hearing next month addressing police reform.

PHOTO: A person celebrates the verdict of the Derek Chauvin trial at Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House on April 20, 2021, in Washington. (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)
PHOTO: A person celebrates the verdict of the Derek Chauvin trial at Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House on April 20, 2021, in Washington. (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

Appearing with the Congressional Black Caucus members, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi drew some online criticism for saying Floyd had sacrificed his life.

"So again, thank you George Floyd for sacrificing your life for justice, for being there to call out to your mom, how heartbreaking was that to call out to your mom," she said. "I can't grip it, but because of you, and because of thousands, millions of people around the world. It came out for justice, Your name will always be synonymous with justice."

MORE: Pressure on Biden to act on police reform will grow post-Chauvin conviction: ANALYSIS

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only Black Republican in the Senate, told a reporter he was "absolutely" relieved, and said that the verdicts strengthened his belief in the system.

"I think our justice system is getting more just, I'm thankful for the verdict and certainly thought it was murder and so that last, my first thought or shortly thereafter and believe that this reinforces the fact that while we all may need to grow our confidence in parts of the system," Scott said. "The truth of the matter is that this reinforces a commitment that we can have confidence that the justice system is becoming more just."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised the decision in a tweet, and also called for police reform.

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"However, a guilty verdict doesn’t mean the persistent problem of police misconduct is solved," Schumer said. "We'll keep working for meaningful change."

ABC News' Benjamin Siegel, Trish Turner and Mariam Khan contributed to this report.

Lawmakers react to Chauvin verdict with relief, calls for policing reform originally appeared on abcnews.go.com