Chattanooga activists encouraged, not vindicated, by guilty verdict in George Floyd killing trial

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Sarah Grace Taylor, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.
·3 min read
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Apr. 21—Anti-police brutality activists in Chattanooga felt encouraged but not vindicated on Tuesday as the killing that spurred weeks of protests in 2020 resulted in three guilty verdicts against the police officer who knelt on George Floyd's neck.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on three charges — second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — for the May 2020 death of Floyd.

Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died during an arrest last summer when Chauvin knelt on his neck for over nine minutes. Video of Floyd's death, and his cries of "I can't breathe," ignited monthslong protests in cities across the country, including in Chattanooga.

"This is an example that, 'Hey guess what guys, we can prosecute police when they make an egregious mistake. We can hold people accountable, and a badge is not a license to kill,'" activist and musician Cameron "C-Grimey" Williams said Tuesday, noting past instances of officers being acquitted in similar cases.

"It shows that when there is an egregious act ... the DA and the state have the capabilities to hold them accountable, and make a case, and to prosecute them to the fullest extent," Williams said. "And also what this shows is the power of the people. We understand that before, even with the video, these officers were not arrested. These officers were not even fired from being police. So it also shows the power of activism, for all those who said, over the spring and summer, that protesting is futile. This is why protest is not futile."

But Chauvin's conviction does not mark an end to police brutality, according to Williams and fellow protest leaders.

"This is justice, maybe, in one case if we already know that only 1% of officers will even be indicted, do we think that one win is a win?" activist Marie Mott asked. "Is that a change in any of the measures of how police are heavily in Black communities? Is there a legislative change that's going to come tomorrow that's going to change the dynamics of how police operate in poor and impoverished communities? No.

"I think maybe we get to go to bed tonight with a temporary form of relief that at least for George Floyd, there was justice in his case, but what about Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Tony McDade, these names besides George Floyd?" Mott said. "So, my position is that I am glad that we got justice in this one case, but how often is it that we even get to go to trial? Overwhelmingly not very often."

Activist Brie Stevens said Chauvin's case must be used as an example to set a precedent of accountability for police.

"This case has to be remembered and brought up again in a court if, you know, there is another police officer that does this in this area," Stevens said. "But I don't think this case is a one-size-fits-all, it just says you can't do what this man did and get away with it.

"But it's just about accountability, like Jesus, how do we get them to be more accountable and how do we put somebody's name on it, so that they're always thinking about what will happen?" Stevens said. "And it's sad that it has to take another Black man being killed to even get a conviction and a case to refer to."

Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at staylor@timesfreepress.comor 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.