Tuesday’s verdict in the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for nine and a half minutes drew reaction from activists, elected officials and others in Rochester, where Floyd’s death last May triggered days of protest.
The former officer, Derek Chauvin, was found guilty on all three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin had kept his knee on Floyd’s neck even though Floyd repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.”
In a statement posted on Facebook, activist group Free the People Roc said: “We stand in solidarity with George Floyd’s family and friends. We hope that today’s decision brings them peace. Guilt doesn’t belong with Derek Chauvin alone. It was a system that killed George Floyd, and justice won’t be served until that system is dismantled and abolished.”
The group added: “Daniel Prude is also in our thoughts today. We are outraged that his family has received no peace, no comfort, and no closure. We remain disappointed in Attorney General Letitia James for sabotaging the case and failing to hold the officers involved in Prude’s murder accountable.”
Prude died a year ago after becoming unresponsive in an encounter with Rochester Police Department officers. Police body-cam footage made public in September showed officers handcuffing a naked Prude, who was under the influence of the drug phencyclidine, and then putting him face down on the pavement. Prude stopped breathing during the encounter. In late February, the grand jury investigating Prude’s death declined to indict any of the Rochester police officers involved.
Monroe County Executive Adam Bello also responded to Chauvin’s conviction in a Facebook post. He wrote that “George Floyd’s life was unexpectedly and unnecessarily cut short at the hands of the very person sworn to serve and protect him. … 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,” Bello added. “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.”
The Commission on Racial and Structural Equity, jointly authorized Bello and Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren in the wake of Floyd’s death and the local protests, issued its final report last month. It calls for the city and county to tackle deeply embedded practices and conditions in local government and other institutions that have worked systemically against people of color.
The Black and Asian Caucus in the Monroe County Legislature issued a statement, saying it was “pleased with the verdict” against Chauvin. “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. … Justice for George Floyd and his family brings us relief and we must never forget the names of those who never received their justice.”
City Council member Malik Evans, who is challenging fellow Democrat Warren in this year’s mayoral race, said in a statement that “nothing can bring back George Floyd’s life, but I pray that today’s verdict gives some peace to his family. While this verdict is progress, 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.”
Added Evans: “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.”
Warren did not immediately release a statement Tuesday evening in response to the Chauvin verdict.
Rep. Joe Morelle praised the jury in the Chauvin trial. Writing on Twitter, he said: “I’m thankful to the jury for their swift and decisive action to hold Derek Chauvin accountable for the murder of George Floyd. But this verdict doesn’t bring George Floyd’s life back, and it doesn’t end the pain and injustice far too many Black Americans experience every day.”
Morelle also wrote that “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.”
State Sen. Samra Brouk, D-55th District, issued a statement. It said, in part, that “this verdict is a small step towards accountability, but 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. George Floyd should still be alive today. And although nothing can bring him back to his family, we must continue to honor him by actively working to transform and rebuild our policing systems to equally serve all of us.”
Reverend Lewis Stewart, president of the United Christian Leadership Ministry of Western NY Inc., called the verdict “a portion of justice for George Floyd and his family.” In his statement, Stewart said “what happened to George Floyd is symbolic of what has happened to Black people since 1619. Brutal lynchings, horrific killings and the devastation of Black lives. America is a White Supremacist nation and demonstrated its de-evaluation for Black lives by acts of state terrorism by representatives of law enforcement—Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, Daniel Prude, Emmet Till and countless others never received justice.”
Added Stewart: “Justice is possible in America and police officers who engage in such beastly actions shall not escape the judgement of the people.”
Paul Ericson is Rochester Beacon executive editor.