By WECT Staff | April 20, 2021 at 5:43 PM EDT – Updated April 20 at 11:58 PM
SOUTHEASTERN, N.C. (WECT) – Area leaders are reacting to the news that a Minneapolis jury found Derek Chauvin guilty of all charges in the death of George Floyd.
After deliberating for about 10 hours over two days, the jury found Chauvin guilty of the following charges:
Second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
Representative Deb Butler issued a statement indicating the verdict may be a pivotal point for criminal justice reform.
“Today’s verdict is just and correct, and brings some comfort, but the true verdict for us as a society will unfold as we use this pivotal and historic moment to examine and make sweeping reform [to] our criminal justice system.”
In response to the verdict, District Attorney Ben David wrote in an email:
“The evidence was overwhelming. The jury returned the only appropriate verdict: guilty as charged. We must continue to work together to bring about meaningful criminal justice reform that will benefit everyone.”
During tonight’s Wilmington City Council meeting, councilman Kevin Spears said a few words about the verdict.
He started his remarks by saying: “Today, America got it right.” He also said that while he is grateful for today’s guilty verdict, the fight is not over.
Mayor Bill Saffo said in an interview after the meeting that today is a historic day in this country, and that the City of Wilmington needs to move forward and look for ways to improve the quality of life of all people.
“Every aspect of life in America changed with the George Floyd Killing,” Mayor Saffo said. “It’s a good thing that we as a community have come together to recognize that and to move forward as a community together. I think that’s the most important thing is that we all have a part to play in this — not just the city of Wilmington, not just the county, not just business, but each and every one of us.”
New Hanover County NAACP president Deborah Dicks Maxwell said the guilty verdict validates that police reform is needed and that there is more work to do.
“As we move forward at this time, this verdict just validates that we need police reform. We knew it already, that’s why we’re asking everyone to support the George Floyd Justice Bill, to support the actions of the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity and Criminal Justice, support this city of Wilmington having civilian review boards so that we don’t have any Chauvins,” Maxwell said. “Thank the lord, my eyes got moist and I thought, ‘finally’ because last week I had a post with the deaths of all of those who had died on a plaque with this t-shirt on and I thought, ‘at least one of them, someone who had been charged, had actually been found guilty.’”
Wilmington Police Department Chief Donny Williams emailed a statement:
“As we look towards Minneapolis – communities across this country are responding to the verdict. I remain committed to leading a law enforcement agency that will continue to make necessary changes in the way we police and ensure that everyone is treated with compassion and dignity. We encourage you to pray for the men and women of our agency as we give you the best service possible. Thank you for your support as we work to make Wilmington a safe place for all.”
During the unrest that followed George Floyd’s death in 2020, several groups formed to protest the injustice. The founder of one such local group, Angela Colon, of Wilmington Advocacy and Protest Organization responded to the news.
“On one hand, there is finally a guilty verdict on a police murder. On the other hand, here we are cheering on the same punitive prison system that we were also scrutinizing. What I’d like is for this to stir the powers that be into quicker action. We wanted reforms that took these abusable powers from law enforcement in the first place. We wanted better training, demilitarization when it came to weapons, stricter regulations on offending officers, available community alternatives, even reassessments of how law enforcement approaches mental health within their departments. We have yet to see these things catch speed,” said Colon.
“We can’t settle for this pageantry because it’s a superficial win, if we can call it a win at all. The core of the problem still remains and we need to keep the pressure going until the changes are made that get us to a safer tomorrow where we don’t have to have to worry about cops killing us in the first place!”
The lowercase leaders, another organization that became active locally, also responded to a request for comment.
“A guilty verdict doesn’t bring dead black folks back from the dead. While this is a good small step, and we hope it brings the Floyd family peace; this is not justice. Justice is removing the chance of this ever happening again from our society. While we take today to breathe in remembrance and honor of George, tomorrow we keep working, for Brandon Smith, Brandon Webster, Elijah McClain, Philando Castile, Frankie Jennings, Keith Lamont Scott, Duante Wright and all of our kindred fallen victim to class warfare, systemic racism, and oppression.”
New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman released the following statement:
“Our Nation has reached a pivotal moment in history today with the verdict in the Chauvin trial. It will be remembered for decades to come, and should be a constant reminder to us all. We must do more to ensure respect, justice, and equity throughout our Nation. We know that this work is not complete, and we are committed to seeing it through right here in New Hanover County. We ask for peace and unity as we continue advocating for the rights of justice and equality for all.”
Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli sent this message to students, faculty, and staff:
“Now that the verdict in the State v. Chauvin case has been announced, the question on the minds of many of us today is this – where do we go from here? For far too long, communities of color have borne the brunt of social and racial injustices that have denied them the fundamental rights and dignity they deserve. We recognize this historical fact while also understanding the complicated nature of human identity. We acknowledge the ways in which race has privileged some and disenfranchised others, while we know that race is not the sum of the human existence. We can work to confront our deeply troubled lived experiences with race while we also fight to affirm the dignity of those with other, marginalized identities.
We face this moment, committing to building a future free from systemic violence and racism. We must create the kind of learning and living spaces that allow us to talk with each other, and to find those bonds that empower us to see beyond our divisions. We will learn from the injustice that continues in this region, this country, and the world. And we must act.
George Floyd, we will remember your name.”
Governor Roy Cooper tweeted his response to the verdict.
I appreciate the jury’s work for justice. George Floyd’s death shouldn’t have happened and we must continue to work to bring positive change to our state and country. – RC
— Governor Roy Cooper (@NC_Governor) April 20, 2021
The North Carolina Association of Educators, an advocacy organization for public school employees and students supported the guilty verdict saying, “Jury made the right decision.”
The decision was announced just after 5 p.m.
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