"As we continue the fight, we can draw strength from the millions of people — especially young people — who have marched and protested and spoken up," the former president said

By Adam Carlson
April 20, 2021 06:22 PM
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Barack Obama on Tuesday lauded the jury who "did the right thing" in convicting Derek Chauvin of the murder of George Floyd — but the former president urged others to continue pursuing what he called "true justice."

"If we're being honest with ourselves, we know that true justice is about much more than a single verdict in a single trial," Obama, 59, said in a statement.

"True justice requires that we come to terms with the fact that Black Americans are treated differently, every day. It requires us to recognize that millions of our friends, family, and fellow citizens live in fear that their next encounter with law enforcement could be their last," he continued. "And it requires us to do the sometimes thankless, often difficult, but always necessary work of making the America we know more like the America we believe in."

"While today's verdict may have been a necessary step on the road to progress, it was far from a sufficient once," Obama said. "We cannot rest."

To that end, he said, "We will need to follow through with the concrete reforms that will reduce and ultimately eliminate racial bias in our criminal justice system. We will need to redouble our efforts to expand economic opportunity for those communities that have been too long marginalized."

In his statement, Obama also reflected on what he hoped would be an enduring movement against injustice and police misconduct, touched off by Floyd's killing.

"For almost a year, George Floyd's death under the knee of a police officer has reverberated around the world — inspiring murals and marches, sparking conversations in living rooms and new legislation," he said, going on to say that "as we continue the fight, we can draw strength from the millions of people — especially young people — who have marched and protested and spoken up over the last year, shining a light on inequity and calling for change."

"Justice is closer today not simply because of this verdict, but because of their work," Obama said.

"Michelle and I send our prayers to the Floyd family, in the hopes that they may find peace," he said. "And we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all those who are committed to guaranteeing every American the full measure of justice that George and so many others have been denied."

George Floyd and Derek Chauvin
George Floyd, at left, and Derek Chauvin
| Credit: Splash

Obama, who became the first Black president in U.S. history when he was elected in 2008, has regularly delivered emotional remarks in the wake of police killings while calling for change.

A number of high-profile deaths of Black men happened during Obama's eight years in office, including Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray and Philando Castile among others.

"When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son," Obama said in 2013. "Another way of saying that is: Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago."

Earlier Tuesday, Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was convicted of all three charges — second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — that he faced in Floyd's fatal arrest last May.

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

Chauvin had been filmed pinning Floyd to the ground by the neck for approximately nine minutes, as Floyd pleaded for help.

Following his conviction, Chauvin was immediately taken into custody and will be sentenced in eight weeks. He faces up to 40 years in prison for the most serious charge.

Numerous high-profile figures and lawmakers have reacted to the verdict in what was one of the most closely followed trials in recent memory.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris "watched the verdict with staff in the Private Dining Room," the White House said Tuesday afternoon.

Afterward, Biden spoke with Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and he, Harris and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden spoke with Floyd's brother Philonise from the Oval Office.