Joe Biden expressed relief at the murder conviction of Derek Chauvin on Tuesday evening in a telephone call with George Floyd’s family as he prepared to address the nation following the verdict.
The US president telephoned Floyd’s family shortly after the jury ruled that the former Minneapolis police officer was guilty on all three charges: second-degree and third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
Benjamin Crump, the family’s attorney, posted a video of the call on Twitter, in which the president said: “We are all just so relieved.”
“At least, God, now there is some justice,” Biden said. “You have been incredible. You are an incredible family. I wish I were there just to put my arms around you.
“We are going to get a lot more done,” the president added. “We are going to stay at it until we get it done.”
Biden and Kamala Harris, the vice-president, are expected to address the nation later on Tuesday evening.
The verdict was also welcomed by Barack Obama, the former president, who issued a statement with his wife, Michelle, saying the jury “did the right thing”.
“While today’s verdict may have been a necessary step on the road to progress, it was far from a sufficient one. We cannot rest,” the Obamas said. “We will need to follow through with the concrete reforms that will reduce and ultimately eliminate racial bias in our criminal justice system.”
Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill, who have been pushing for federal police reform legislation, also welcomed the verdict.
Joyce Beatty, the Democratic representative from Ohio who chairs the congressional black caucus, said: “This verdict we certainly agree with, guilty on all charges. But we want our message to be very clear that this is just the first step. We know clearly that justice has been delayed.”
Maxine Waters, the Democratic congresswoman from California who attracted criticism earlier in the week for her suggestion that protesters should get “more confrontational” if Chauvin were acquitted, said: “You know, someone said it better than me: ‘I’m not celebrating, I’m relieved.’”
Many lawmakers said they were optimistic that the verdict would provide momentum for passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a piece of legislation that passed the Democrat-controlled House but stalled in the Senate, which until January was controlled by Republicans.
Democrats now control the Senate by the slimmest of margins, and will therefore need to work with Republicans in order to pass federal legislation and send it to Biden’s desk for signing.
Tim Scott, the Republican senator from South Carolina who has been instrumental in drafting GOP proposals for policing reform, told reporters on Capitol Hill that he was “absolutely” relieved by the jury’s verdict, and that Democrats and Republicans were likely to come to a bipartisan agreement on federal legislation.
“This is a monumental day, in many ways, in my opinion,” Scott said. “The verdict just reinforces that our justice system continues to become more just . . . we have been working on the police reform legislation. I am cautiously optimistic that we will find a path forward.”
Tuesday’s verdict was also welcomed by many senior business leaders. Executives had watched the trial closely, aware of the impact Floyd’s murder had on many of their employees and the heightened pressure it put on corporate America to do more to tackle racial inequities.
Several business bosses took to social media to express satisfaction with the guilty verdict, mixed with recognition that injustices persist and a pledge to use their platforms to support reform.
Mary Barra, chief executive of GM, described the guilty verdicts in a tweet as “a step in the fight against bias and injustice” but added: “We must remain determined to drive meaningful, deliberate change on a broad scale.”
Antonio Neri, chief executive of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, wrote on Twitter that justice had been done but “we recognise there’s much more to be done to build a safer, more inclusive world for people of colour”.
“The American justice system served us all well today with guilty verdicts on all counts for the murder of George Floyd,” said Kathryn Wylde, president and chief executive of the Partnership for New York City, the city’s leading business group.
She added: “Hopefully this marks the beginning of a new era in the trust that the black community and all of us can have in law enforcement and the judicial system.”