Florida reacts to guilty verdicts in cop killing of George Floyd

By: - April 20, 2021 6:41 pm

Graffiti seen on a Portland street corner amid protests over the death in police custody of George Floyd. Credit: Another Believer via Wikimedia Commons

The long-awaited verdicts — guilty as charged — in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin prompted swift reaction Tuesday from around the state of Florida.

But as of 9 p.m., no statements had yet been issued by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who, the day before, proudly signed a controversial anti-protest law sparked by nationwide protests against the killing for which Chauvin was convicted.

The governor initiated the new law last summer in the wake of national protests sparked by the 9-minute video showing Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, causing him to die in custody.

By evening, there was little response from high-ranking Florida Republicans, including Attorney General Ashley Moody, the state’s chief law-enforcement officer. But shortly after the verdict was announced, former Sen. Rob Bradley, a north-central Florida Republican, tweeted this:

“Thank goodness there was a camera.”

Around 8:30 p.m., Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, a northwest Florida Republican, tweeted: With the verdict delivered today in George Floyd’s death, we know that our justice system did its job. It may not be perfect, but it is still the best in the world.

Here are select other comments from around Florida about the murder and the verdict:

Tallahassee-based attorney Ben Crump, representing George Floyd’s family:

Today, history was made. We are finally starting as a country to live up to the promise of equal justice under the law. We don’t take this lightly. It was sacrificial blood that made this moment possible.

Crump is one of many Tuesday who reiterated demands for passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, mandating policing reforms nationwide, approved in the U.S. House of Representatives but awaiting action in the U.S. Senate.

Rep. Bobby DuBose, Florida House Democratic Leader:

Why was I holding my breath and praying when the facts and evidence were clear? Although justice was served today, the next time I will still sit holding my breath and praying until systemic racism is eradicated from society.

Derek Chauvin killed a Black man on the street in broad daylight in front of a crowd of people. He did so slowly, intentionally, and with absolutely no regard for the man trapped beneath his knee.

George Floyd should be alive today. He should be with his daughter, his family, and his friends. No judge or jury can change that.

Today, the halls of justice said his name — George Floyd — but there are many others, and we must continue to say their names and see their faces because Black Lives Matter.

Sen. Bobby Powell, chair of Florida Legislative Black Caucus

It is hard to establish justice for all when a country designed to create a more perfect union divides us and constantly fails to provide for the common defense, welfare and the blessing of liberty for all. To truly form a more perfect union black lives MUST matter.

Today the family of George Floyd got justice. Black people, a group constantly disparately treated by the criminal justice system, also got justice but our work is not done. We have yet to receive justice for the lives of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and now Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo.

While we mourn the loss of life, we must hold public servants, especially law enforcement officers, accountable. All of the countless lives lost at the hands of police brutality would not have been amplified without social media and protest. Across the country and even here in Florida, despite the enactment of HB 1, we will continue to march in the streets and make our voices heard whenever acts of social injustice occur.

Rep. Tracie Davis, Duval County Democrat:

Justice has been served. While this verdict is the outcome that we wanted to hear, today is not just about George Floyd. This is about Emmett Till, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Daunte Wright…. Here in Florida, remember Harry and Harriette Moore, in Jacksonville Johnnie Mae Chappell and the countless others who were murdered and did not get the justice they deserved. Today is for them.

It is not that the injustices that are being suffered have increased, it’s just now technology is allowing us to see the ugly truth. We must work to make sure that we enact laws that protect people and support competent law enforcement.

Today is not a day of celebration but a day of reflection. We must remember those that are not here, as we repeat, this day is for them. This day is for progress. This day is just one step toward a better collective future.

Adora Obi Nweze, president, NAACP Florida State Conference and member of the national board of directors:

Our hearts go out to the family of George Floyd. Finally, justice prevailed! What we’ve all witnessed during this trial has confirmed what we saw in the video. Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd.  We know the jury deliberated for nearly 11 hours and we commend them for their courage.

The NAACP Florida State Conference hopes this begins true healing, as we will not rest and will continue our efforts to ensure the deaths of George Floyd, Daunte Wright, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, and countless others are not in vain but move us toward true and unadulterated justice for our community.

While we applaud today’s verdict, this will not provide justice for all victims of police misuse of force and we must recognize that police reform remains a major objective of the NAACP.

Florida Sen. Perry Thurston, Broward Democrat:

Judgement has been rendered, and justice has been served. The death of George Floyd laid bare the disparate treatment at the hands of law enforcement many in the minority community throughout our country have sounded the alarm over, cried over, and protested over for years. With the conviction of Derek Chauvin today, those voices were finally heard.

It is my hope that those who would offer crackdowns on peaceful protestors instead of examining the reasons for those protests, heed the lessons contained in that judgement of guilt. Police officers are just as human as the rest of us. There are good officers and, unfortunately, a few bad ones among them. Silencing the outcries for justice when an officer goes rogue serves no one, and heightens the distrust between those in blue and those they have pledged to serve and protect.

George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, when asked about waiting for the verdict to come in, responded: “We have faith. We’re going to get through this. After we get the verdict and we get this conviction, we’ll be able to breathe.”

To George Floyd’s brother, his many supporters, and the millions of people here and around the world who marched in solidarity to demand accountability for this murder, justice has finally been delivered. It is time to take that breath.

Patricia Brigham, president, League of Women Voters of Florida:

We are relieved that justice has been served in this case and are hopeful that the status quo of police brutality will no longer be tolerated. Calls for criminal justice reform have gone unheeded for too long. Hopefully, this verdict will signal the beginnings of positive change.

Rep. Michele Rayner, Democrat representing parts of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties, via Twitter:

My spirit is conflicted. I’m happy and I’m sad. Because we should have a world where George Floyd should be alive.

Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Nikki Fried, via Twitter:

Thank you, members of the jury for delivering justice — I hope this brings George Floyd’s family some solace. This is an important step towards accountability, but there’s still a whole lot of work to be done. #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd

Sen. Shevrin Jones, Broward-Dade Democrat:

The emotion, as a young Black man in this country, to have justice prevail in the Chauvin murder trial that has captivated the world’s attention is indescribable. While millions of people breathe a sigh of relief for this accountability, there is still so much work to be done.

What’s clear is that it is long past time to address systemic racism in this country, and I will continue to push for real reforms so that everyone can live safely without fear of harassment, discrimination, or being killed. I continue to pray for the Floyd family and others across the country who’ve suffered immense, unnecessary loss due to nothing more than the color of their skin.”

U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, northwest Florida Republican:

Today justice was served. I believe the jury made the right decision based on the evidence presented. It’s important to remember that the few do not represent the many, and there are far more positive things local law enforcement officers do for our communities than negative That said, those who break the law must be held accountable.

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, central Florida Democrat:

George Floyd should be alive today, and nothing can bring him back or erase the pain felt by those who loved him. But I believe this is a just verdict based on the evidence, and I hope it brings a measure of solace to Mr. Floyd’s friends and family.

Jason Williamson, deputy director, ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project:

George Floyd will never make his way home to play games with his daughter, Gianna. He’ll never go on walks through the park with his beloved fiancée Courteney or play basketball with his brother, Philonise.

While today’s verdict is a step forward in the fight for police accountability and may help heal a grieving community, the systems that allowed a police officer to murder Mr. Floyd, ripping him away from his family and the communities that loved him so much, remain fully intact. These are the same systems that resulted in the death of another 20-year-old Black man at the hands of police less than 10 miles from this trial.

Honoring the lives of George Floyd, Daunte Wright, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and countless other Black lives violently taken at the hands of police means that elected officials, activists, organizations like the ACLU, and regular people must not allow this verdict to lull us into a place of complacency.

Instead, we must renew our conviction to create a world where police do not have the opportunity to use violence and harassment to target Black people as police have been doing since their inception as slave patrols created to monitor, control, and oppress Black communities.

This new world includes removing police entirely from low-level enforcement and massively reinvesting in the communities that desperately want more for the legacies of their fallen. And we will fight with them to get there.

Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus:

While we applaud the guilty verdict in the George Floyd case, we must recognize that this is just one small step in an ongoing journey towards true justice. One conviction does not make up for prior injustices. Accountability and justice are not the same thing.

The world watched Derek Chauvin murder George Floyd. And every day we see more crimes and atrocities committed against Black and Brown communities, often by those charged with protecting them. This verdict reminds us that we all have more work to do to ensure that our differences do not make people targets.

The Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus understands and appreciates diversity and works to foster inclusion. We believe that Black Lives Matter and we stand with all those fighting for equality, equity and the disabling of systemic racism.

Miami-Dade Democratic Party:

The Miami-Dade Democratic Party supports the Minnesota jury’s decision to find officer Derek Chauvin guilty to the fullest extent of the charges filed.

While no court ruling will ultimately reverse this injustice, we are encouraged by the outcome. The Miami-Dade Democratic Party believes that while this is a step in the right direction, the struggle to defeat systemic racism at all levels of government must continue.

We commit to fighting for a day where a badge does not allow you to get away with murder, as it has so many times before.

Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chair Steve Simeonidis:

I’m thankful that Mr. Floyd and his family received some measure of justice, but I still feel sorry at the countless others that are still looking for theirs. We must continue to fight for equality and equal justice under the law. Black Lives Matter.”

Andrew Gillum, former Tallahassee mayor, 2018 gubernatorial candidate, via Twitter:

Accountability. Rest in power, George Floyd.

Former state Rep. Sean Shaw, founder of People over Profits, via Twitter:

I don’t know if they were tears of joy at the verdict or tears of sorrow for #GeorgeFloyd … but I had them. We should all work to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

And right after my initial emotions around the verdict were gone, they were replaced by a visceral anger at the Florida Legislature and the Gov for passing a bill (during this trial) to criminalize the initial protests about the death of #georgefloyd.

Gov. Ron DeSantis:

There was no public statement by Tuesday evening from DeSantis, who suggested Monday he expected an acquittal.

The governor’s social media accounts have made no reference to the Chauvin case, and his communications office has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Phoenix staff writers Michael Moline, Danielle J. Brown and Issac Morgan contributed to this report.

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Laura Cassels
Laura Cassels

Laura Cassels is a reporter, former statehouse bureau chief, and former city editor. She is a classical pianist, a Florida State University graduate and proud alum of the Florida Flambeau, an independent college newspaper. Contact her at [email protected]