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Local reaction to Chauvin guilty verdict: 'Justice is possible in America'

PBS NewsHour


Local activists, elected officials and community leaders reacted Tuesday after a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd.

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Ashley Gantt.

Ashley Gantt, co-leader of Black Lives Matter advocacy group, Free The People Roc, said she was left speechless after hearing the verdict.

“I'm relieved, I'm sure along with the rest of the folks who've been in the streets fighting for justice," Gantt said. "But at the same time, it's like, what do you say? Like in this moment, you know?”

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Gantt said it’s hard not to reflect on Daniel Prude and his family during this time. Prude, 41, died at Strong Memorial Hospital on March 30, 2020, a week after he suffocated in police custody.

“While I'm happy that in Minnesota, they got the justice that they've been fighting for, for over a year, it doesn't go without saying that we feel the injustice that Daniel Prude and his family didn’t get,” Gantt said. 

As of Tuesday evening, Gantt said Free the People Roc had no plans for a post-verdict rally.

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Tiffany Porter.

Tiffany Porter, an organizer with Being Black in the Burbs, said she still doesn’t think justice has been served.

“He’s going to go to prison. Well, prison for a white man that was a former cop is very different from prison for a Black man. Just period,” Porter said. “And so he might not be in general population, he might get treated better. Well, we know he will get treated better because those are cops he’s walking around with, those are his comrades.”

Porter started the Black in the Burbs group after Floyd’s murder. She said the fight is far from over for her.

“I don’t know if I would even call this a victory, but folks need to know that racism is not going to go away by us just talking about it and discussing it,” Porter said. “We’ve got to actually start breaking it down and dismantling these systems to treat this.”

Rev. Lewis Stewart of United Christian Leadership Ministry
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The Rev. Lewis Stewart

The Rev. Lewis Stewart of United Christian Leadership Ministry called the verdict "a victory for Mr. Floyd, his family and for humanity."

"Justice is possible in America and police officers who engage in such beastly actions shall not escape the judgement of the people," Stewart said in a statement. "Therefore, George Floyd has become an international symbol of American racist oppression and that if we the people are persistent and consistent in protest, and fighting for transformational policies, justice shall win out.”

In an email to the University of Rochester community, President Sarah Mangelsdorf and other university leaders said Chauvin's trial and verdict "were not just a product of our adversarial justice system, but also a product of our imperfect society. Any outcome in this case would have made some people feel passionately that justice was served, while others would believe just as passionately that justice was denied."

The email noted that "this moment is about more than a single trial."

"This is but one inflection point in a history of structural racism that we hope our nation is finally beginning to fully confront. The tragedies of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Daniel Prude, Adam Toledo, Daunte Wright, and countless other Black people reaching back centuries, only serve to remind us of how far we as a society must progress to achieve our shared goal of justice for all." 

The email also said the university will provide facilitated conversations in person and over Zoom, plus safe zones designated for quiet reflection, along with several other supportive resources.

Malik Evans

City Councilmember Malik Evans, who is also a mayoral candidate, noted that nothing can bring back Floyd's life, but he prays that the verdict "gives some peace to his family."

"While this verdict is progress," Evans said in a statement, "our country has a moral imperative to create a new normal, where our legacy of systemic racism is not reflected in our public institutions or private lives.

“We have seen the impacts of this system firsthand in Rochester, and I remain committed to breaking this legacy by bringing our city together and bridging this divide. As Mayor, I will work to increase transparency, strengthen police accountability measures, and create an RPD that serves all citizens equally.”

A spokesman for Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said she wouldn't have any immediate comment.

Monroe County Legislature Minority Leader Vince Felder.
Credit Provided
Monroe County Legislator Vince Felder.

Monroe County Legislator Vince Felder said he was "elated and relieved" that the jury found Chauvin guilty.

"That this act was caught on video, and that the world witnessed Mr. Chauvin kneeling on the back of Mr. Floyd for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, meant that the world was watching to see if justice would be served in this case," Felder said in a statement. "Mr. Floyd begged for his life, but Mr. Chauvin disregarded Mr. Floyd’s humanity and ignored his pleas."

Felder also said there's a long history in the United States that "has led to the belief that police in America are free to murder innocent African Americans without fear of penalty."

He also referred to Daniel Prude's death and noted that a grand jury failed to indict the involved officers.

"So, while I celebrate this verdict, I am sobered by the reality that it took something so obviously egregious and depraved to produce this verdict," Felder said. "All the families of people of color who have been murdered by the police deserved the same justice that George Floyd’s family received today."

Assemblymember Harry Bronson has released legislation to address challenges in the Rochester School District.
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Assemblyman Harry Bronson.

Assemblymember Harry Bronson said Floyd's life mattered, and he'll never be forgotten.

"The eyes of the world witnessed the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Derek Chauvin and now a court of law has finally delivered justice," Bronson said in a statement. "While many were shocked at the horrifying video that was soon seen around the world, for others this was just another day for people of color in America. We will never forget George Floyd and we will remember his life was so much more than his last 9 minutes and 29 seconds. 

"Let this verdict ring throughout our country and serve as a reminder that no one is above the law," Bronson added. "As a nation, we must hold law enforcement officers accountable and continue the hard work of reforming our justice system. It is upon all of us to keep moving forward and continue the fight for racial justice. Today, justice was served. Justice was served for George Floyd.

Samra Brouk
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State Sen. Samra Brouk.

State Sen. Samra Brouk said in a statement that while the verdict is a step toward accountability, "true justice resides in the work that lies ahead to redress centuries of tragedy and trauma inflicted on and endured by so many Black men and women in this country."  

Brouk said Floyd should still be alive today. 

"And although nothing can bring him back to his family," she added, "we must continue to honor him by actively working to transform and rebuild our policing systems to equally serve all of us. May this verdict provide some sense of peace to the Floyd family and Black communities across the country.”

Joe Morelle was elected to fill the remainder of the the late Louise Slaughter's term and serve his own two-year term.
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Rep. Joe Morelle

Congressman Joe Morelle said he was "thankful" to the jury for their "swift and decisive action."

“But this verdict doesn’t bring George Floyd’s life back, and it doesn’t end the pain and injustice that far too many Black Americans experience every day," Morelle said in a statement. "This is a solemn moment in our history. I pray that it marks another step toward the healing of our society and the reform we need to prevent further tragedies.”

The Monroe County Legislature's Black and Asian Democratic Caucus issued a statement saying it was "pleased with the verdict." 

"Our thoughts today are with the family of George Floyd, whose murder sparked a movement like no other in history," the statement continued. "Mr. Floyd’s death was an example in a long line of violence against people of color by law enforcement. We hope that the conviction on all counts against Mr. Chauvin signals the beginning of change when it comes to police-community relations, especially when those communities are mostly made up of people of color. We also hope that this will change the trajectory of policing across the nation to make everybody safer. 

The caucus said the movement is far from over, though. 

"As we saw in our own city just last year in the case of Daniel Prude, people of color are still killed while those responsible for the deaths are not being held accountable. We will keep fighting for justice for all of those who have been victims of police brutality and all other forms of violence against communities of color.”

Credit Dan Clark/New York Now file photo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the verdict a "powerful statement of accountability."

"But while I'm grateful that the jury returned these verdicts, accountability is not the same as justice," Cuomo said in a statement. "It doesn't make an unacceptable situation acceptable, and it doesn't bring Gianna's dad back. But it must fuel our continued march towards equity. 

"Emmett Till. Medgar Evers. Rodney King. Amadou Diallo. Sean Bell. Trayvon Martin. Eric Garner. Michael Brown. Philando Castile. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Daunte Wright. Adam Toledo. Our country has never fully lived up to its founding ideal, of liberty and justice for all. Still, our greatest attribute has always been our optimism, our belief in an ever better future, our faith in the strength of humanity." 

Cuomo added: "We saw that faith in streets across the country last summer and over the last 11 months. Our charge now is to channel our grief, our anger, our righteous energy, and make real, positive, and long-overdue change happen."

Credit Monroe County

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said that, "George Floyd’s life was unexpectedly and unnecessarily cut short at the hands of the very person sworn to serve and protect him. My prayers are with Mr. Floyd, his family and friends on this difficult day. While this verdict won’t bring Mr. Floyd back, I am hopeful that this guilty verdict will bring his family and friends some measure of justice and closure."

"Too often Black and Brown men and women in America have suffered the same fate as Mr. Floyd as a result of inequities that exist in systems across our country. That must change. The RASE Commission was formed in light Mr. Floyd’s death to examine how we can collectively address those inequities here at home. That work is needed now more than ever."