After former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all counts against him on April 20, civil rights leaders, officials and activists breathed a sigh of relief momentarily before reminding Americans of the racial challenges the nation will continue to face going forward.
Chauvin faces 40 years in prison for the most serious charge of second-degree murder after he kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes, killing him, during an arrest for using counterfeit currency. The ensuing protests touched every corner of the country, including the village of Rockville Centre.
“This verdict represents a measure of accountability that was sorely needed,” State Senator Todd Kaminsky said in a statement, “but real justice would have meant that Mr. Floyd would have walked away from that encounter — one that will be forever seared into the conscience of our nation.”
Kaminsky said he started his legal career as an assistant district attorney in the Queen’s County District Attorney’s Office, where he prosecuted violent crimes, including domestic violence cases, robberies and shootings.
His message was encapsulated by Vice President Kamala Harris’ address the day the verdict was announced. “Today, we feel a sigh of relief. Still, it cannot take away the pain,” Harris said. “A measure of justice isn’t the same as equal justice.”
State Assemblywoman Judy Griffin echoed the sentiment.
“While I hope we can all breathe a sigh of relief from today’s verdict and take some comfort in knowing that this was an important step and acknowledgement in our nation towards the accountability that we need in order to heal,” Griffin said in a statement, “this is just the beginning.”
“A disproportionate number of black and brown families have suffered from police brutality or inequality in our judicial system,” she continued, “and although I can’t speak for these families, my heartfelt thoughts are with them. I think we can all agree that George Floyd and countless others have not been treated with justice and equality and we all need to work together by creating meaningful and impactful change.”
Rena Riback, of the Rockville Centre Anti-Racism Project, weighed in, as well.
“We are thankful that Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges,” she said. “This is accountability. We hope this is the beginning of systematic change that will lead to true justice in our nation. The fight against racism doesn’t end here; we all must continue to be active anti-racists.”
The Anti-Racism Project works with Sharon’s Food Pantry at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Center on North Centre Avenue to provide for those in need with meals for their families.
Chauvin is scheduled to be sentenced on June 16 at 1:30 p.m. but is not expected to see the full 40-year sentence due to a lack of prior criminal history. Since multiple sentences can be served concurrently in Minnesota, Chauvin may only serve the sentence of the highest count.
The median recommended sentence is 12 and a half years, which has precedent from the sentence Mohammed Noor received for killing a woman in his squad car after he discharged his weapon.