Last year, Americans experienced an array of emotions — sadness, outrage and horror, as they watched footage of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneel on George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds, well past the moment he had stopped breathing.
After a year of widespread protests and promises of police reform, Chauvin was found guilty on Tuesday of all counts — second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He will be sentenced in eight weeks.
“I think it is not a celebration as much as we want to enjoy the moment,” said Ravin Chetram, activist and vice president of the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a time for awareness. A time for hope. A time for change, real change.”
Hope Taglich, who is from Oyster Bay but currently lives in Maryland, said that she too was “thrilled” about the verdict.
“But I think it’s alarming that we’re celebrating over a rare instance of justice, or accountability being delivered,” she said. “We’re so unused to the idea that a police officer could be held accountable for killing a civilian, that when one is, it is a cause of celebration.”
Both Chetram and Taglich hosted and participated in Black Lives Matter rallies and protests in the hamlet throughout the spring and summer last year. And while they said they were now able to see accountability in the murder of George Floyd almost a year later, there are still families who have not seen that for their loved ones.
“Breonna [Taylor], Elijah [McClain], Rayshard [Brooks],” Chetram said. “We do not want this to be a token given out to see all future cases thrown out.”
Rev. Roger Williams, of First Baptist Church of Glen Cove, said he was nervous about the verdict , saying that police officers have not been convicted for killing Black and Brown civilians, like 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was killed in Cleveland in 2014 by a police officer for holding a toy gun.
“I was thinking about how these unarmed [people] were greatly injured and even lost their lives at the hands of police officers and how those officers were able to walk away, to be acquitted,” said Williams, who is leading the local African American Commission on Social Justice. “I did not know if this jury was going to be bold and do as the prosecution had encouraged them to do, and that was to use common sense. What they saw, they saw.”
When Williams learned that the jury had deliberated for 10 hours before making a decision, he began to feel a sense of hope that they had found Chauvin guilty. Williams and his 17-year-old son watched on television, as Judge Peter Cahill of the Hennepin County District Court read the verdict.
“I was relieved,” Williams said. “My son saw that as a young Black man, that the systems of justice, the authority that the police department has, can and have the capability to side with what is right.”
If the courts and police abuse people without consequence, Williams added, young people will not have any respect for them moving forward. He stressed that he and other activists in Glen Cove are not anti-police.
“Derek Chauvin was not a police officer,” Williams said. “He was not a police officer in the sense that he did not . . . [follow] the mission and the sacred oath that police officers who you and I know do very well every day.”
Williams has worked with Glen Cove Police Department Chief William Whitton a number of times to help build unity between local police and the community it serves.
“I said it from the very onset that his actions were brutal and completely not justified,” Whitton said. “He got what he deserved. Thankfully for the community, they have closure and they saw justice be served.”
Glen Cove activist Antwan Brown took part in a Black Lives Matter march across Glen Cove and Sea Cliff and joined a town hall over the summer with Williams, Whitton, Mayor Tim Tenke and other local leaders. Brown said that after the verdict, multiple people reached out to him to say that he had made a difference.
“I was just a small part of a huge push for justice for my people,” said Brown, adding that he received push back from some members of the community for his advocacy.
But despite this, he said, he is undeterred, and will continue to fight for change.