03 June 2020

Dentons global CEO speaks out against racism in wake of George Floyd killing

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 30, 2020: Legal observers are seen on the fourth straight day of protests against the death of George Floyd

Legal observers in New York on 30 May on the fourth straight day of protests against the death of George Floyd

Elliott Portnoy describes feelings of 'horror, disgust and sadness' as he joins senior legal figures in condemning killing

Dentons CEO Elliott Portnoy is among a number of law firm and US bar leaders to have publicly condemned the killing of George Floyd and called for more action to combat racism in the days that have followed Floyd’s death on 25 May.

Portnoy said in a LinkedIn post yesterday (1 June) that the video images of Floyd being restrained by a police officer in Minneapolis, which have sparked ongoing protests across the US, had brought ‘anger, horror, disgust and sadness, yet they are only the most recent and egregious in an all too long list that continues to grow’.

He added that while he couldn’t fully understand the experience of ‘black colleagues and others across the globe who endure the daily sting of injustice and threats from racism’ he and his colleagues in the US and around the world ‘must continue our shared fight against racism and discrimination in all its forms’.

Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison chairman Brad Karp told Law.com he was planning ‘to develop an actionable plan to promote and secure racial justice in our country’ involving ‘strategic partnerships across the bar and the public-interest community’.

However, Arnold & Porter partner Sheila Boston, who became the first woman of colour to serve as president of the New York City Bar Association in May, said she saw “glimmers of hope”.

“Young people of all races are peacefully marching and protesting in the streets, expressing moral indignation,” she said in a statement today. “Civil rights leaders and lawyers are meeting, planning and mobilising to implement legislative and policy changes, for example to ensure that citizens are protected from police officers who are unworthy of wearing a badge.”

She added: “As Dr Martin Luther King Jr remarked to a room full of lawyers at the City Bar in 1965, 'I am impelled to wonder who is better qualified to demand an end to this debilitating lawlessness, to better understand the mortal danger to the entire fabric of our democracy when human rights are flouted.'”

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