Memphis leaders, activists react to verdict in Chauvin case


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Local leaders and activists were weighing in Tuesday with their reactions to the three guilty verdicts against former Minnesota officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd. Here is a sampling of their comments.

Memphis pastor Devante Hill, who was involved in organizing Black Lives Matter protests in Memphis last year and was on a panel that helped evaluate candidates for Memphis Police chief this year, was in Minneapolis to meet with the Floyd family on Tuesday. Here was his reaction minutes after the verdict was read:

“I know this isn’t the be-all, end all, but this means everything. This means we can turn the tide. We can heal our communities. We’re tired, tired of protesting, tired of marching only to watch the murderer get away free because he carries a badge.

“I get it, crime is an issue in a lot of cities, Memphis included, but the relationship between law enforcement and communities has everything to do with the rise in crime. This is a step in the right direction.”

Devante Hill

Rev. Earle Fisher of Abyssinian Missionary Baptist wasn’t ready to declare it a victory just yet.

“Maybe this is an opportunity for us to lean more fully into talking about what it means to reimagine policing and criminal justice reform, more substantially. But I’m not overly optimistic about that.”

Rev. Earle Fisher

State Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) said via text that the guilty verdict does not mean justice was served for Floyd:

“Yes, I’m thankful that the family of George Floyd received a guilty verdict. But justice was not served. The guilty verdict simply pointed out that #DerekChauvinIsAMurderer  But that verdict will not bring George Floyd back. That verdict won’t even take the life of Derek Chauvin. “

Rep. Antonio Parkinson

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said the verdict provides relief during a period of challenge

“Today’s Chauvin trial verdict provides some relief in a period of great challenge. Although we may never get over the murder of George Floyd, captured on video, on May 25, I pray that today’s verdict brings some solace to his family.”

Mayor Lee Harris

Rev. Keith Norman of First Baptist Church Broad said he never lost hope that the jury would reach the right verdict.

“It is a hopeful indication that we’re moving in the right direction. … I’m so happy that we had an opportunity to come together and this was the right outcome.”

Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) released a short statement, saying:

“The jury has spoken and justice has been served.”

The National Civil Rights Museum released a long statement saying justice may have prevailed in this case, but it does not in too many cases.

The verdict is in. Derek Chavin is guilty on all counts.

What does this mean? Justice was served in this case. Justice prevailed. But the justice we need is bigger than the verdict of this one case. Hopefully, this case will set a precedent for the verdicts to come for the many other victims of unjust police killings. We thank the jury for bravely doing the right thing. Our heart is with George Floyd’s family who has endured the devastation of his death.

In too many instances, with too many deaths, justice was not present. It didn’t prevail. This guilty verdict saved this nation, and our communities, from the explosive, aggravated response from people not able to take the injustices any longer. We know this verdict will not replace George Floyd whose death created turmoil for this nation and a worldwide response.

Watching George Floyd suffer for 9 minutes 29 seconds last May and reliving it every day since then, and now, during the Derek Chavin trial, has been extremely difficult. We’ve watched and learned more about the specifics of George Floyd’s dying moments than we really want to or can bear to know. But seeing it and hearing the defense’s rationale for his death and the prosecution’s evidence of his murder show the two Americas we live in.

We are not okay. We need much healing from George Floyd’s death and the thousands of others who have died without just cause.

At the National Civil Rights Museum, we are reminded every day of the need for meaningful protest to bring attention to inhumanity and injustice. Dr. King led many non-violent, but disruptive protests. He refused to be silenced in the wake of injustice. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We are a museum of protest and we tell the stories of the men and women who sacrificed their lives for civil and human rights through disruptive, non-violent protests.

We saw evidence last summer, with 100-plus days of protest for the series of police-involved deaths, that people want to be heard and action taken to stop the killings. As the nation heard the verdict in the Derek Chavin trial and mourned more police-involved deaths that have occurred during this trial, we are not okay.

It’s a difficult time as we experience, directly or indirectly, what is happening around us. It’s difficult to explain to our children what they are seeing or hearing and how it may touch them. It’s difficult to discuss among ourselves how this continues to happen, even when the nation is admitting that we have a race problem.

Until we do something constructive about it, with the intention of stopping it, not just talking about it, the deaths and the justification for them will continue.

No. We are STILL not okay.

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