"Justice for George means freedom for all," George Floyd's brother Philonise said after a guilty verdict convicted former police officer Derek Chauvin for murder

By Jeff Truesdell
April 20, 2021 09:10 PM
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Philonise Floyd (C), George Floyd's brother, holds up his fist as he marches with others on Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House, to protest police brutality and racism, on June 10, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Philonise Floyd marching with protesters in Washington, D.C., on June 10.
| Credit: LUIS MAGANA/AFP via Getty

George Floyd's family members reacted on Tuesday to the unanimous jury verdicts that found a former police officer guilty for his murder last May with relief, gratefulness, and a nod to historical precedent.

"Today we are able to breathe again," his brother, Philonise Floyd, said at a news conference, referencing George's repeated cries of "I can't breathe" as the white Minneapolis officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee into George's neck for about nine minutes while George, a Black man, lay on the ground with his hands cuffed behind him.

Philonise invoked the name of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black boy lynched in Mississippi in 1955.

"He was the first George Floyd, but today you have the cameras all around the world to see and show what happened to my brother," he said, referencing viral bystander video of the incident that held center stage during three weeks of testimony in Chauvin's Minneapolis trial.

George Floyd, the man who was killed by police officers in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.
George Floyd
| Credit: George Floyd

"The world seen his life being extinguished, and I could do nothing but watch ... especially in that courtroom over and over and over again as my brother was murdered," said Philonise.

"Times, they are getting harder every day," he said. He mentioned a police shooting that occurred in a Minneapolis suburb even as Chauvin's trial was underway, with 20-year-old Daunte Wright, also Black, fatally shot during a traffic stop by a police officer who has now been charged with manslaughter.

"Ten miles away from here, Mr. Wright, Daunte Wright, he should still be here," he said. "We always have to understand we have to march, we have to do this for life, we have to protest. It seems like this is a never-ending cycle."

RELATED VIDEO: Derek Chauvin Convicted of All Charges in Murder of George Floyd

He vowed to keep up the fight he's embraced as a family spokesman, which includes testifying before Congress on behalf of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a wide-ranging bill that aims to "hold law enforcement accountable for misconduct in court, improve transparency through data collection, and reform police training and policies," according to the legislation. The bill already has been passed by the House of Representatives, and on Tuesday after the Chauvin verdict, Vice President Kamala Harris announced its introduction in the Senate.

"I'm not just fighting for George anymore," Philonise said. "I'm fighting for everybody around this world.

He added: "Justice for George means freedom for all."

Rodney Floyd
Rodney Floyd, George Floyd's brother
| Credit: Emilie Richardson/Getty Images

The death of George, 46, and the viral video that captured it sparked the largest social justice protests in a generation. Chauvin, 44, was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, and was convicted of all three.

Listen below to the episode of our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day for more on Derek Chauvin's conviction.

According to the New York Times, the recommended sentence in Minnesota for a first-time offender found guilty of second- or third-degree murder is 12 1/2 years. The recommended sentence for manslaughter is 4 years.

He will be sentenced in two months.

Another one of George's brothers, Terrance Floyd, said: "My family is a family that will not back down from prayer. And I believe because of prayer, we got the verdict we wanted."

"We got on our knees. Some of us stood up, but we asked the right one. We said – God, we need justice, we need it now. And he answered," he said. "I'm just grateful."

Of George, he said, "I will salute him at every day of my life, I will salute him because he showed me how to be strong, he showed me how to be respectful, he showed me how to speak my mind. I will miss him, but I know that he is history."

"What a day to be a Floyd, man," he said.

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George's other brother, Rodney Floyd, told the media: "This is a victory for all of us. There is no color barrier on all of this. This is for everyone held down, pinned down ... For George, this fight is not over. We have to get this act passed, we are going to keep pressure on the Senate and everyone."

An aunt of the brothers, Angela Harrelson, said in describing the family's journey after George's murder: "I want to say to the people around the world: It wasn't darkness. May 25 was a very dark day, there was a lot of pain and a lot of hatred. But I want to say something – I got a chance to witness something, I got a chance to witness all the love that I saw all around the world that was poured to the family."

chauvin trial
Derek Chauvin
| Credit: CNN

"I don't know that I will get a chance to see that again," she said. "But the love that was shown me and my family, you touched us."

Chauvin, who was fired after George died, is the first of four officers to face trial in his death. Three other now-former officers on the scene with Chauvin — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — all were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and will be tried apart from Chauvin this summer. All have pleaded not guilty.

A nephew of George's, Brandon Williams, told reporters after the verdict: "We need each and every officer to be held accountable and until then, it is still scary to be a Black man and woman in America and encounter police."

"What I saw today is a pivotal moment, it's a chance for America to take a turn in the right direction and right a lot of wrongs … so that we don't keep adding to these names," he said.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.