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Today’s verdict isn’t ‘justice’. But accountability is a first step to justice

In a short speech following the George Floyd verdict, Minnesota attorney general Keith Ellison distinguished between the concepts

Keith Ellison | The Guardian | April 20, 2021

In a press conference following the news that a jury had found the former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on multiple counts of the murder of George Floyd, Minnesota’s attorney general, Keith Ellison, delivered a short but powerful statement.

Here are Ellison’s remarks in full.

Everyone involved [in this prosecution] pursued one goal, justice. We pursued justice wherever it led. When I became the lead prosecutor for the case, I asked for time and patience to review the facts, gather evidence, and prosecute for the murder of George Floyd to the fullest extent the law allowed. I want to thank the community for giving us that time, and allowing us to do our work.

That long, hard, painstaking work has culminated today. I would not call today’s verdict “justice”, however, because justice implies true restoration. But it is accountability, which is the first step towards justice. And now the cause of justice is in your hands. And when I say your hands, I mean the hands of the people of the United States.

The cause of justice is in your hands – the hands of the people of the United States

George Floyd mattered. He was loved by his family and his friends. His death shocked the conscience of our community, our country, the whole world. He was loved by his family and friends – but that isn’t why he mattered. He mattered because he was a human being. And there is no way we could turn away from that reality.

The people who stopped and raised their voices on May 25 2020 were a bouquet of humanity – a phrase I stole from my friend Jerry Blackwell. A bouquet of humanity, old, young, men and women, black and white. A man from the neighborhood just walking to get a drink. A child going to buy a snack with her cousin. An off-duty firefighter on her way to a community garden. Brave young women – teenagers – who pressed record on their cellphones.

Why did they stop? They didn’t know George Floyd. They didn’t know he had a beautiful family. They didn’t know that he had been a great athlete. And they didn’t know that he was a proud father, or they he had people in his life who loved him. They stopped and raised their voices, and they even challenged authority, because they saw his humanity. They stopped and they raised their voices because they knew that what they were seeing was wrong. They didn’t need to be medical professionals or experts in the use of force. They knew it was wrong. And they were right.

These community members – this bouquet of humanity – did it again in this trial. They performed simple, yet profound, acts of courage. They told the truth, and they told the whole world the truth, about what they saw. They were vindicated by the chief of police, by Minneapolis’s longest-serving police officer, and by many other police officers who stepped up and testified as to what they saw and to what they knew. What happened on that street was wrong. We owe them our gratitude for fulfilling their civic duty and for their courage in telling the truth.

To countless people in Minnesota and across the United States who join them in peacefully demanding justice for George Floyd, we say, all of us, thank you. In the coming days, more may seek to express themselves again through petition and demonstration. I urge everyone to honor the legacy of George Floyd by doing so calmly, legally, and peacefully.

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