Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump served as the commencement speaker at Texas Southern University’s spring graduation ceremony Saturday morning.
“It took all of us, Black, white, brown, all Americans of goodwill standing up and working together, for us to get the landmark verdict in Minneapolis, Minnesota convicting Derek Chauvin- guilty, guilty, guilty!” yelled Crump from the podium, igniting the graduating Class of 2021.
Crump serves as the civil attorney for the family of George Floyd.
His address came hours after the announcement of federal indictments of Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers on civil rights charges in Floyd’s murder.
“It sends a message all across America that we have a zealous Department of Justice that’s going to make sure the constitutional rights of all citizens are protected,” says Crump.
Chauvin was also indicted for hitting a 14- year old in the head with his flashlight and kneeling on his neck for 17 minutes back in 2017.
Following the ceremony, local leaders and Floyd’s family shared their reaction on Texas Southern University’s campus, across the street from where Floyd grew up. The family says they were given the heads up before receiving a fifteen-minute call from Attorney General Merrick Garland about the charges.
“You could hear the sincerity in his voice, hear that he was very touched and moved by my brother’s death and the police conduct,” says Rodney Floyd.
“It’s no way the color of your skin should dictate how you are policed when in police custody,” added Floyd’s nephew Brandon Williams. “This lets us know there is change on the way.”
Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee also spoke during the press conference about the indictments. “I was stunned. I was moved to tears,” she said. “We have given light and hope to other families who have languished without relief.”
They’re hoping the move opens the door for the justice department to revisit police brutality cases that have failed to convict officers on the state level.
“It is the prosecutors who don’t want to prosecute police for killing Black people that we must hold accountable,” says Crump.
“When we pass this George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, hopefully, that will give prosecutors encouragement to hold up to really help America live up to its promise of equal justice under the law.”
The new graduates are left with a reminder of work that has to be done after their senior year was dominated by marches for justice.
“They’re stepping into a world of two justice systems, one for Black African Americans, one for the white folks,” adds Rodney Floyd.
During the ceremony, Crump also presented a $20,000 check establishing the Benjamin Crump Social Justice Endowed Scholarship at Texas Southern University.
“When I look at you graduates, there’s no way we can give up. You all are worth the fight!” he says.
He ended his commencement speech advising future lawyers and leaders to use their skills to speak truth to those in power and to persist against long-standing injustice while navigating to a better day.