Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, who believed all along that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin would be convicted of killing George Floyd, said Wednesday his conversations with Black residents who never thought a conviction would happen "highlights" the gap where the justice system is concerned.
"Everything in my heart said they were going to get the conviction," Walz, a Democrat, said on "CBS This Morning." "I thought the case was solid ... then I would talk to Black Minnesotans who said 'we don't believe that. It never works that way.' I think that just highlights where that gap is and how big it is."
Walz said that people in his state are "breathing a sigh of relief" after the jury in the Chauvin case found him guilty on all counts of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, as the "white-hot spotlight that's been on us since we and the world watched George Freud being murdered feels different today."
Now, he said, Minnesota is the "state that convicted George Floyd's murderer," but still, he's also hearing that it's time to "start the hard work."
He added that state Attorney General Keith Ellison is "amazing" and had an "amazing team" to prosecute Chauvin, and he lauded the courage of the witnesses in the case, including the children "who had the courage to sit on that stand after videotaping" the nearly 10 minutes when Chauvin had his knee on Floyd's neck.
But still, Walz said he hasn't spoken to a Black person that was comforted by the verdict, even while acknowledging the prosecution went well.
"The evidence was overwhelming," said Walz. "He murdered George Floyd on that street last May. But they said this has happened time and time again and (justice) doesn't work. And so I think that as they see it today, I think this is the sense of (that) we're celebrating something that should have been so clear-cut and normal but it's not for Black Minnesotans and Black Americans."
Show anchor Gayle King said she spoke with two Minneapolis council members who said that despite the trial and verdict, nothing has changed in terms of policing in the past year after Floyd was killed, and Walz said he thinks they are right.
"It's not a big lift to say we should ban chokeholds, but there were so many activists saying that's not good enough," said Walz, noting that last July lawmakers were able to come to bipartisan agreement on some factors.
In addition, he said, there must be a move to make sure that mental health professionals are responding to incidents if needed, and to "make sure traffic stops are not reasons to arrest folks and lead to these confrontations that you see."
"Now is that moment," said Walz. "This white-hot spotlight that's been on Minnesota can't leave now. My fear is everybody packs up and we think we've got this. As I've been saying, this is the floor. This is the very basic floor of what should be done."
Walz added that both he and his wife are teachers, and have seen the inequities in education, and that's another factor that must change.
"We do well for white children but not Black children," said Walz.
Meanwhile, Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan posted on Twitter that Minnesota is a "place where it is not safe to be Black," and Walz agreed that her comments point to a state that is not welcoming, and it "needs to be."
"I think the lieutenant governor as a woman of color, an indigenous woman, that's her life-lived experiences," said Walz of Flanagan, who is a tribal citizen of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe. Her comments came after the killing of Daunte Whright Jr. who was shot by a now-former police officer who said she thought she was using her Taser, not her service revolver, during a traffic stop.
"My (experiences) as a white man are different, but it's my responsibility to bridge this gap. It's not black people who don't see it, it's white people who don't see it," said Walz.
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