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Washington leaders react to guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin in murder of George Floyd

Graffiti bearing the name of George Floyd is seen in Cal Anderson Park in the area known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) on June 24, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Local leaders in the Puget Sound region and beyond spoke out Tuesday, in the wake of a jury finding former Officer Derek Chauvin guilty of all three counts in the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Chauvin, 45, could be sent to prison for decades. The jury found him guilty on all three counts — second degree murder, third degree murder, and second degree manslaughter.

In Seattle, city leaders urged residents planning on demonstrating Tuesday night to do so peacefully. The Seattle Police Department said it does not “have any intelligence to indicate that there are any threats for tonight or the days to follow.”

“However, given the national significance of this trial and the civil rights reckoning that followed in the wake of Mr. Floyd’s death, community demonstration, protests, and direct action are likely,” it clarified.

On Tuesday night, Seattle police reported that a group was marching downtown. They say they gave the crowd multiple warnings to not block traffic or damage property. One arrest was made for obstruction.

Governor Inslee, councilmembers from Seattle and elsewhere, a local chapter of the NAACP, and the superintendent of public instruction were among those who spoke out after the verdict:

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan:

Ahead of a planned citywide prayer and moment of silence at 7 p.m. Tuesday to honor the life of George Floyd, Mayor Jenny Durkan praised Tuesday’s verdict in a written release, noting that the jury “confirmed what we saw with our own eyes.”

“George Floyd was murdered and Derek Chauvin violated his most solemn duty to protect lives and uphold the law,” she said. “The cruel and degrading murder of Mr. Floyd shook our nation but for too many Black Americans, his murder reflected an all too often reality of the deep and systemic impacts of racism in our country. ”

Gov. Jay Inslee:

Gov. Inslee described Tuesday’s verdict as “one step on a long journey we are just beginning.”

“Today is a day for all to recommit themselves to a more perfect union, in their communities and in our nation,” he said. “Let this be the beginning of progress rather than the end of one trial.”

“Today’s sense of relief for some is fleeting,” he continued. “They know more must be done to prevent this from happening again and again. Too many live with this uncertainty. We must end systemic racism. In Washington, we are reforming independent investigations into police use of force; clarifying the requirements for tactics; increasing oversight and accountability for law enforcement officer conduct; and establishing better standards for permissible uses of force.”

Seattle Council President Lorena Gonzalez:

Gonzalez put out a release on the Seattle council’s website, calling Tuesday’s verdict “welcome news.”

“The verdict finding former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin guilty of all three charges is welcome news but we know that it will not bring George Floyd back to his family,” she said. “And we know that far too often police killings of Black, Brown and Indigenous members of our communities have resulted in no justice or systemic change.”

“We live in two different Americas, where your access to community safety is often determined by your skin color,” Gonzalez continued. “The status quo of American’s criminal legal system too often fails to deliver meaningful justice to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities.”

Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant:

Sawant labeled the verdict against Chauvin as “a rare measure of justice under capitalism,” crediting Black Lives Matter protesters last summer.

“Chauvin guilty verdict shows the power of mass, multiracial, working-class solidarity,” she said on Twitter. “All credit goes to the rank-and-file BLM activists, esp the the youth. My congrats to the 20M courageous protestors, many of whom faced down tear gas, rubber bullets, police violence, arrest.”

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards:

Mayor Woodards expressed her “appreciation for this jury’s effort” in rendering its guilty verdict, but similar to other local leaders, stressed that there’s more work to be done.

“While the trial of Derek Chauvin comes to a close, we recognize that this historic moment alone does not lift the tension and weight that currently rest on our city or our country. As we reflect on today’s national news, we also acknowledge the continued local impacts of ongoing investigations – including the one into the death of Manuel Ellis – right here in Tacoma.”

King County Executive Dow Constantine:

“Today, a Minneapolis jury convicted former police officer Derek Chauvin of all charges – second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter – for the killing of George Floyd last year,” Executive Constantine said Tuesday.

“Mr. Floyd’s death sparked outrage in our community, across the country, and around the world as bystander video went viral. The footage of the last minutes of Mr. Floyd’s life was gut-wrenching, devastating, and impossible to ignore. Those with the privilege to disengage on issues of race, who had not previously had to pay attention, watched with shock and horror as former Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck, even after he had stopped moving and drew his final breath. Members of the Black community across this nation, as well as Indigenous people and other communities of color were also horrified but sadly, not surprised.”

King County Council Chair Claudia Balducci:

“It’s heartening to see our system can provide accountability for such a heart-wrenching event that sparked a historic movement for social change and justice,” Balducci said. “While this is a just and important verdict, it is just one action, in one case, that was decided with unusually compelling documentation of an exceptionally horrific act. We have so much more to do to realize true justice and equity in our nation. Here in King County, we will continue our work toward transforming policing and providing true public safety.”

Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal:

“The message out of the courtroom today brings hope for the future. But to deliver on a future that is free from racism; a future where Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) don’t just survive in America but actually thrive in America — we have a lot of work to do before we see that future,” Reykdal said.

“This trial — likely the most high-profile police brutality trial in decades — was about the power, privilege, and disregard for human life exhibited by one person,” he continued. “This trial was about whether an officer crossed the line, but let’s be clear: that line is so misaligned with actual justice that the lines themselves need to be on trial.”

What needs to be on trial is the underlying power dynamics and systems of oppression within every aspect of the American experience, which remain largely unchallenged at the system level. What needs to be on trial is the body of laws, rules, and procedures that sustain white supremacy throughout our institutions and our society as a whole.”

You can read the full statement from Reykdal here.

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers:

Somers took to Twitter, stating that “justice is served,” but also noting that “the fact that a jury found George Floyd’s murderer guilty doesn’t lessen the crime nor diminish the many other criminal acts that have never been accounted for in our justice system.”

Civil Rights Attorney James Bible:

Also reacting Tuesday was James Bible, a local civil rights attorney who represents the family of Manuel Ellis. Bible described it as “an emotional moment, not only for Minnesota but for our entire nation.”

“What we should be acknowledge here is that there are so many other cases that have come forward and have gone through the court process — even have video such as Rodney King — where officers were found not guilty or acquitted of any sort of action,” he added.

Seattle-King County NAACP:

“We are heartened to hear that Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of murder in the death of George Floyd – but we are not satisfied. This verdict shows that the thin blue line of police silence can be broken; that police officers have it within them to stand up and hold their fellow officers accountable; that prosecutors can muster the resources and evidence to secure a guilty verdict against police when they have the will do to so; and that juries are capable of seeing the truth, which is that Black and brown people in America continue to be killed by police for no other reason than the color of their skin.”

“But this is just one verdict, and it came only after a summer of nearly non-stop mass protest, with echoes of Mr. Floyd’s last words, ‘I can’t breathe,’ filling streets from Seattle to Washington, D.C. It should not take a national movement to secure justice for a single Black man killed by a police officer. But it did, and it will.”

Seattle Police Department

The Seattle Police Department released a written statement of its own shortly after the verdict was announced.

“The Seattle Police Department knows that Mr. Floyd’s murder was a watershed moment for this country,” the statement reads. “The eyes of the nation saw in horrible detail what so many have been fighting to change. It was soul crushing. From that pain, though, real change as begun.”

The SPD went on to tout changes it’s made at the local level over the last year, including banning neck restraints and chokeholds and ending no-knock warrants.

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