Fear mixed with hope

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David L. Dye, The Herald, Sharon, Pa.
·4 min read
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Apr. 3—SHARON — As Patrice Lee watched the overwhelming video evidence presented this week in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, accused of murdering George Floyd last May, she experienced a myriad of emotions.

The Farrell resident — who has been watching the trial with her 11-year-old son and watching it with friends and co-workers — said the testimony of an off-duty firefighter and trained EMT, and the store employee who took what he suspected to be a counterfeit $20 bill from Floyd as two of the trial's most impactful moments so far.

The firefighter said police prevented her from aiding Floyd at the scene, and the store employee said he called police but never expected response to the relatively minor issue to result in Floyd's death.

But the most emotional part was having to witness what she saw as Chauvin's casual demeanor as he kept his hands in his pockets while driving his knee into Floyd's neck. Lee called it "pure evil."

After the first week of Chauvin's trial, some area Black residents are looking toward the resolution with a sense of foreboding.

Chauvin is facing charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Sharon resident Philip King said it would be discouraging, but all too familiar, if the former police officer escaped punishment after evidence presented this week, said Sharon resident Philip King. King said Black men understand that Floyd's fate — death at the hands of police — can happen to him, a friend or a family member.

Lee said Chauvin, a police officer at the time he killed Floyd, should face greater punishment than a civilian in a similar situation.

"He should be tried like anyone else — actually, he should get more than somebody else," Lee said. "We as Americans hold police to a higher standard, so if we hold them to that higher standard, then they should be punished by a higher standard."

Fellow Sharon resident Marquis Lampkins, said she was affected by the testimony of a 9-year-old girl who witnessed the incident and said on the stand that she had failed Floyd.

"She's going to carry that with her for the rest of her life, and she's only 9 years old," Lampkins said.

Floyd's killing, on May 25, 2020, turned Lampkins into an activist and left her with a knot of emotions — outrage, pain and brokenness.

She turned those emotions toward activism by launching WCC: The Voice, or "We Want Change," which organized local protests last year in Mercer County. Though the WCC does not promote violence, Lampkins said she understands the anger some would feel if Chauvin is not held adequately accountable.

King agreed and said working peacefully for change is always the preferred option, but some might view an acquittal or a short sentence as a sign that peaceful protests are failing to affect meaningful change for Black Americans.

"If you keep doing the same thing over and over expecting something different to happen and nothing changes, then that's insanity," King said.

But the fear is also mixed with hope — that a long prison term for the former police officer would indicate a sign that the lives of Black people have value.

"It feels good to even be able to hope that something will come out of this," King said.

Lee said she hoped a strong penalty for Chauvin's actions would lead to more transparency and accountability among law enforcement, and thus help build public trust in law enforcement.

"I hope," Lee said, "that the police and citizens can have some type of relationship where I'm not afraid to call the police, and the police won't shoot me or put their knee on my neck because I'm big or strong or they're afraid of me."

King and Lampkins said they have seen changes in the aftermath of Floyd's killing.

King said he's noticed more awareness among whites that racism needs to be addressed, while Lampkins said she's had white friends try to reach a better understanding.

"Instead of saying 'I understand how you feel,' they're saying 'tell us how you feel,'" Lampkins said.

Like David L. Dye on Facebook or email him at ddye@sharonherald.com.