“While we breathe a sigh of relief, this fight is not over,” Richards told a small gathering at Borough Hall, pledging to “see this fight for accountability through.”
Richards, the first Black man to hold the post of Queens borough president, read the names of victims of police violence in New York City, including Amadou Diallo, Eric Garner and Sean Bell.
He reflected on how the decision to convict Chauvin of murder could easily have gone the other way.
“We’ve always felt that our lives did not matter,” he said. “Every time one of us lost our lives and there was no justice served, we felt devalued.”
Richards urged Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and said that the Black Lives Matter movement should not be seen as a threat to the police or other communities.
“This is not an indictment of an entire department,” he said. “We want the bad apples held accountable.”
He was joined by District Attorney Melinda Katz, Councilwoman Adrienne Adams, State Senator John Liu, Assembly members Jenifer Rajkumar, Khaleel Anderson and David Weprin, and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.
Katz said she hoped that last week’s verdict was a step toward positive and systemic change, adding that with police accountability comes community trust and “a safer environment for everyone.”
Liu said that when he heard the verdict for the first time he felt elated, but that joy quickly turned to sadness because he realized the work was “not over, with a lot to do.”
Although Van Bramer, who is challenging Richards in the June Democratic Primary, has called for defunding the police, the controversial measure was not mentioned at last week’s event.
Richards told this paper afterwards that defunding the police “means a lot of different things” to people.
“Everybody gets caught on that word,” he said. “I believe we should make sure equitable resources are going into many communities to make sure they are safer.”
Anderson said to truly tackle the issue of systemic racism in the police force there needs to be “clear lines of engagement and accountability” within the police department.
“Not fluff,” he said, “but people losing their jobs.”