A jury in Minneapolis today convicted police officer Derick Chauvin of murdering George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for nine minutes in May 2020.
The verdict was met with relief and satisfaction across the nation, which had waited anxiously for the verdict in a murder that sparked weeks of protest last summer.
In Portland, a city where those protests lasted 100 consecutive nights, and where hardline activists still demand the abolition of police with marches and vandalism, nearly every local elected official issued a statement after Chauvin was found guilty.
But after a year in which this city and state reckoned with its racist legacies, the statements of Black officials merit particular attention.
Here are those remarks in full.
State Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Clackamas)
“When this nation can confront the demons of the past and overcome its addiction to absolute power over Black lives, all of America will benefit. When we can count on our courts to deliver justice for everyone, all of America will benefit. When we can rely on our police to consistently bring honor to the profession and provide equal protection for community members through their words and deeds, all of America will benefit. Today’s verdict was possible because law enforcement professionals were clear and unequivocal in their assessment of the facts. George Floyd’s death came at the hands of another man. And it could have been prevented.
“As a mother, I am processing today’s verdict with competing feelings about my own sons and their life expectancies. It is hard to explain to them the urgency I feel about their success and potential, knowing it could be cut short at any time, for any reason. And to lose all of that without a fair explanation or accountability is a hard reality to accept even if I have known this was a possibility all along. Maybe today makes it a little easier for Black mothers to breathe, but I will not stop praying for my babies.
“Some may ask if we have turned a corner. I am not really sure because the laws on the books and our justice system work against the poor, the Black, and the disabled. I have devoted my life’s work to turning this around. Lawmakers in Oregon and around the country have heard the cries of millions calling “Justice for one, justice for all.” Police accountability must be improved and this system of racial superiority must be dismantled. We must do this not only for our children, but our children’s children.”
State Sens. Lew Frederick (D-Portland), Kayse Jama (D-East Portland) and James I. Manning Jr. (D-Eugene)
“The struggle for equality continues, it’s ongoing, it’s never-ending. George Floyd’s life was taken, we all watched it happen. The way his life was taken resonated to our bones, it was the fear we face day in and day out, it was the reality too many have experienced – and this time it was filmed.
“We all have a right to live. As Black Oregonians, we have a right to live.
“The Oregon Legislature has a variety of measures up for consideration this 2021 Legislative Session. These bills are priorities of the BIPOC Caucus which fall under 10 critical categories. These bills are clear actions our state can take in the interest of justice and in the interest of demonstrating that Black Oregonians not only have a right to live, but we also have a right to succeed and a right to thrive.
“In the Chauvin case, the guilty verdict was the right verdict, and we hope Mr. Floyd’s family is healing. The verdict, however, does not bring joy – too many lives have been lost and their families have been denied justice. Too many perpetrators – too many law enforcement officers – have faced zero accountability.
“We should not have to take to the streets. We should not have to debate the truth that our lives matter. We have waited for far too long. Justice should simply be an expectation.
“Our systems need real overhaul and real change, starting with a real recognition of the racism those systems uphold by design. In the meantime, we’ll continue to use our voices and we’ll fight for the change we desperately need to save lives, change which must be made before we lose more.
“Yesterday was the right outcome and today we cannot forget how much more there is to do – and in Oregon, we have an opportunity to make meaningful change this session.”
City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty
“Today’s verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial has provided a long overdue sense of accountability in policing, but let’s be clear: this is not justice. The guilty verdict is obviously the correct decision and it is historic. We all saw what happened to George Floyd on video. It’s rare that police officers are brought to trial over these killings and rarer still that the officer is found guilty. But this verdict does not bring George Floyd back. It does not make his family whole again. It does not make the community whole.
In a just world, George Floyd would never have been unjustly killed by a police officer having a knee to his neck for almost 9 minutes. In the words of Cornell West, ‘Justice is what love looks like in public.’
“Justice looks like all Portlanders, and particularly those most harmed by police violence, being able to leave their homes without fear of not returning because of a traffic stop gone wrong, a mental health episode, or simply wearing a hoodie. I want a police department that believes everyone involved in a 911 response should be alive at the end of the day. We need police to uphold the value that no one is expendable, even if they are not doing what a police officer has asked.
“Today I am inspired to continue doing the work I have done for the last 32 years. To work with community to rebuild policing so that it respects all lives and provides safety equitably.
“What happened to George Floyd happens here in Portland. I believe that we are all ready for change, and to really start that process our community needs the opportunity to heal locally. To do that, we must start with PPB admitting to the harm it has caused throughout history in our City, especially to BIPOC and houseless communities. We need to see accountability for their misconduct, including the many incidents of police brutality we witnessed last summer when thousands of Portlanders took to the streets to declare Black Lives Matter. We need a commitment, through policy change, that these incidents won’t continue to happen.
“We have begun the process of changing our system of community safety locally. We are creating police alternatives like the Portland Street Response (PSR) pilot. Voters overwhelmingly approved a new system of community police oversight last November that is in the process of being set up. We divested from PPB’s most racially unjust specialty units and are further planning to set up Portland Street Response for long term 24/7 citywide success. Most recently, council passed a historic investment in community-based organizations to mitigate gun violence, as opposed to the traditional knee jerk reaction of funding more police. That investment also lays out the beginnings of a process to further evaluate and change our system of community safety.
“I’ll be the first to admit that the above actions are not enough. We have so much further to go. To get there, I need your help. Portlanders have shown that they are hungry to act, and my hope is that we will work together towards transforming our system of community safety, so that we never again have to witness the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Quanice Hayes, or Robert Douglas Delgado.
“I am a child of the Civil Rights movement. I believe in and support non-violent protest and direct action. It’s necessary to bring the scope of change the moment demands. I want to see that non-violent energy from last summer return, when thousands of Portlanders took to the streets to demand change. The pace of progress is slow and frustrating, but change is happening because of that pressure. Now we must work together to continue our transformation of community safety.
“Acknowledging the anger that exists in our community, I continue to plead as the Portland Fire Commissioner for all Portlanders to recognize the extreme danger of lighting fires of any kind with the dry conditions that have led to a Multnomah County burn ban. Whether it’s at a backyard fire pit or a protest, please consider the potential consequences.
“We need to dramatically change policing to ensure its community centered and less aggressive. We need to continue developing alternatives to police to ensure 911 calls get the right response. We need truth and reconciliation and we need culture change from PPB. We need real accountability.
“Today was a rare day where our country finally saw a degree of accountability for police violence. I hope this moment continues to elevate the need to transform a broken system. I’m fully committed to working with you to make that happen, but for today may George Floyd Rest in Power.”
City Commissioner Mingus Mapps
“George Floyd’s death was an American tragedy. He did not need to die, and Officer Chauvin’s actions were a betrayal of his oath to protect and serve. Across our country, Americans took to the street to register their anger at government and systems that far too often result in the loss of Black lives. This verdict, while correct, does not end the work at reforming our institutions so that they protect all people.
“I want to call for peace. No matter the verdict, I know that in the coming days, there will be protests in Portland. And there should be. The status quo is unacceptable. Portland—and America-- need to do better.
“But before you go out to protest, please hear my argument on why those protests should be peaceful.
“As a Black man in one of the whitest cities in America, I appreciate my white allies. But to our white allies out there, before you throw that brick through that museum window, that church window, that restaurant window, please take a moment and have this conversation with at least 3 people of color:
Please ask a person of color: “Would trashing this Starbucks make your life better?”
“I suspect you will discover that the acts of vandalism are completely disconnected from the project helping people of color live freer, safer, more prosperous lives.
“I also want to take a moment to reiterate Commissioner Hardesty’s plea to stop setting buildings on fire. Every year, 4,000 Americans do die in fires. I have known several people who have suffered terrible injuries in fires. Having the flesh burned from your bones is about the worst thing I have ever seen.
“But I can think of one thing worse. And that is being the human being, who set another human being on fire. When you are out protesting, please think about that before you light that match.
“The last point I want to make is this -- I believe Portland’s best days lie ahead of us. But today, our city is hurting. That is why I want to challenge every Portlander out there to help our Portland heal. If you love this city and want to make it better, please volunteer 3 hours of your time, over the next 3 months, to a project that helps Portland heal.”