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‘Sigh of relief:’ Saint Paul Mayor says Chauvin verdict a welcome sign of accountability

Amna Nawaz takes a closer look now, at how the nation, and, in particular, how African American communities across the country, are dealing with the jury's decision. Melvin Carter is the mayor of Saint Paul, Minnesota, which, along with its neighbor, Minneapolis, form the state's "Twin Cities". He is the first African American to hold that office, and joins us to discuss the verdict.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Amna Nawaz now gets reaction from a community leader in Minnesota — Amna.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That's right, Judy.

    Well, in the neighboring city of St. Paul, we're going to take a closer look now at how the jury's decision is coming down.

    Melvin Carter is the mayor of St. Paul, which, along with its neighboring Minneapolis, form the state's Twin Cities. He's also the first African American to hold that office. And he joins us now.

    Mayor Carter, welcome back to the "NewsHour," and thank you for making the time.

    So, Derek Chauvin has been found guilty on all three counts. What was your immediate reaction when you heard the news?

  • Mayor Melvin Carter:

    You know, thanks for having me on.

    I was one of the people outside the Hennepin County courthouse today as the verdict was read, and I was speechless. The crowd out there was, of course, waiting on pins and needles to try to see what the verdict would be.

    Someone shouted "Guilty," and a sigh of relief. It was as though oxygen was provided to the room, to everybody in that space for the first time in quite a long time.

    We know that we have much more work to do. We have another trial here. We will have — we will see a trial ultimately for Daunte Wright, and we have a lot of work to do in our legislative session as well. But, today, this is an important milestone.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    You know, Mayor, you and I spoke the day after George Floyd was killed, May 26 of 2020. And since then, the entire world has come to know his name. They have watched that video. There have been protests in his name around the world.

    In this trial, everyone has been watching and waiting for the verdict. To you, what was at stake in that courtroom?

  • Melvin Carter:

    Everything was at stake in that courtroom.

    First of all, I will say, I think the lady who shot the video we have all now seen deserves a Pulitzer Prize for her work, because that's one of the most consequential works of media that we have seen in a generation.

    Obviously, the accused, Officer Chauvin, his future and his fate was at stake, but far more than that, as the rest of the world looks at this atrocious act that any civilization throughout the course of history anywhere could look at and say, that's wrong, that's murder. And we had to sit on pins and needles for almost a full year to learn whether or not our legal system had the capacity to convict someone and hold someone accountable.

    It's not to be taken for granted. We saw Eric Garner, who was choked to death, who said "I can't breathe" 11 times, and no one was held accountable for his killing. We have asked ourselves time and time again, how bad does it have to be? How brazen does it have to be? How well-documented does it have to be for someone to be held accountable?

    We have established, I think, hopefully a baseline today. But we have a lot of work to do to build on top of that baseline. But it gives us an opportunity to start looking up and moving toward a brighter day in our country.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    As you mentioned, there are other trials ahead as well.

    You and I last spoke a year ago — or, rather, last May, and you had mentioned, of course, there were other officers there. And those three other officers who were on the scene will also face trials. We believe they're scheduled for August now.

    What do you believe this verdict holds for accountability in those cases?

  • Melvin Carter:

    You know, I don't know.

    Those officers, of course, have their day in court, and they have their due process as well. What I shared with you then is what I continue to believe now, is that the fact that every time something like this happens, somebody might want to say, well, this is a bad apple, this is one act of an individual person.

    But the fact that you had Officer Derek Chauvin, who the jury has now confirmed murdered George Floyd and has been convicted of that murder, and while he did it, there were three other officers guarding the scene, holding people back, helping hold George Floyd down. That speaks to a culture that we must address, that we must eradicate in our communities.

    This is about seeing justice in a courtroom. But as one of the young men who is speaking out at the rally today said, justice is living in a world where George Floyd was never murdered in the first place. So this is about seeing justice in the courtroom. But then it's also about seeing justice in our police practices. It's about seeing justice in our legislation. It's about seeing justice in case law.

    We have an enormous amount of work to do from there. And I will tell you, in my mind, and certainly on the minds of the folks I saw outside at that rally today, our minds are all on all of that enormous body of work ahead.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Mayor Carter, in a few seconds we have left, as a leader in your community, as an elected official, when you look back at the trauma of the last year, people watching this video over and over, the stress and anxiety of waiting for a verdict, and now this one moment today, this one moment of accountability, how do you lead your community forward out of this?

  • Melvin Carter:

    You're right. It's been an enormous amount of trauma.

    In that moment, when that voice shouted "Guilty," and all around me, some people were happy and started smiling. Some people just burst out in tears. Some people dropped to their knees and started praying, at — all at the same time.

    We have a lot to knit back together. We have a future to build. We have committed ourselves already through this framework that we call our Community First Public Safety Framework that says we need a public safety framework that's a lot more proactive than we have seen over the past generation.

    I'm fortunate to serve a community that's already been all in on this work far before George Floyd was murdered. And we're going to continue to push that body of work forward.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota, Melvin Carter, joining us tonight.

    Thank you for your time, Mr. Mayor.

  • Melvin Carter:

    Thank you.

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