Reactions: Mayor Kim Norton, Rochester police among many responding to Derek Chauvin guilty verdict

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Emily Cutts, Post-Bulletin, Rochester, Minn.
·18 min read
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Apr. 21—Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of all three counts in the death of George Floyd on Tuesday, April 20. These are community reactions:


Joe Phillips, chairman of the Police Policy Oversight Commission, speaking on his own behalf

I am greatly, greatly relieved. I want to say that word relieved — relieved in the fashion that I believe that this is a step in the right direction for accountability, for police officers that overstep their bounds.

I want to say that because I do not believe that a majority of the police are bad but it only takes a couple of bad seeds to paint a bad picture.

And finally, finally, in the long history of injustice that we have seen in America as African Americans, we are finally starting to see some acknowledgment that we are somebody. That our lives are worth something. It is just a shame that George Floyd had to lose his life for us to get to this point.

I hope that this is movement in the right direction. It revitalizes my efforts as a member of the committee in the belief that there is a real chance for some reform for police and when I say that reform, I'm talking about the existing policies that govern what goes on in everyday interactions that we have seen that are not just for everybody, racially.


Sara-Louise Henry, Rochester Public Schools equity coordinator

"It's a delicate balance being part of the law enforcement community, but I would hope that the fellow officers that got into this line of work to see justice served, I would hope that they share the same sentiments."

"The African American community and allies of our community were all holding our breath and were able to — even if it's just for one night — breathe a sigh of relief. That at this one step justice was served."

"It's sad that we have to celebrate justice being served when it should be expected. it's unfortunate that people of color don't have that expectation due to our experiences."


Dee Sabol, executive director of the Diversity Council

It feels like the beginning of the pursuit of justice. We now have a toehold. We can start to pursue real justice in policing and in our criminal justice system. And find the space to make the changes we need, which go from the local level to the federal level.

I hope that people don't feel removed from this. I hope people in rural Wisconsin, upstate New York, the west coast don't feel removed from this. I hope everyone feels this is central to our existence and shared humanity.


Nick Campion, Rochester City Council member

It is not my place to declare justice, but that such a tragedy as George Floyd's murder should be necessary for "progress" will never feel just. Black Lives Matter.

— Nick Campion (@CMCampion) April 20, 2021


Sister Ramona Miller, President of the Rochester Franciscan Community

The trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin is over, and he has been found guilty on all counts in the death of George Floyd. This decision, made by a jury, has effects that ripple through all aspects of our society. We urge everyone to find it in their hearts to realize that we are all brothers and sisters.

In the wake of this verdict, we must first stop and pray—pray for George Floyd, his daughter, his family, and his community. We pray, too, for former officer Derek Chauvin and his family. We pray for the larger African American community that the time for healing and justice will come swiftly and build a greater country for the next generation together. We pray that law enforcement officers remain protected from daily threats and that they can safely interact with people whether they are assisting them or arresting them.

Regardless of where we stand politically, we need to listen to each other. We must strive for commitment to a shared humanity and a willingness to improve our communities.

We, the Sisters of Saint Francis, are committed to a culture of nonviolence in our daily lives, as active participants in our communities, in response to violence large and small.

Join us and follow examples of great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Francis of Assisi, and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and turn towards non-violent solutions. Forgiveness with Love will be the only antidote for a peaceful future.


Tina Liebling, Minnesota DFL Representative — Rochester

Upon learning of the guilty verdicts in the trial of Derek Chauvin I feel a sense of relief mixed with sadness. Relief that justice has been done in this case, but sadness that basic accountability and justice are so hard to obtain. The work for real justice and accountability in our country is not over, but I hope today marks a turning point.

We need a change in the culture of policing, so the profession attracts and empowers officers who want to protect and serve, and does not tolerate those whose conduct brings pain and distrust to communities. As a policymaker, I will continue to support laws and that move us toward that change. Our Black and Brown neighbors—and all of us—deserve that and so much more.


City of Rochester statement

The City of Rochester is striving to be inclusive, where all people are treated with dignity and respect. While the verdict reached today in the Chauvin trial brings about closure to a time filled with varying emotions, the pain, mistrust, and historical trauma by members of our community will continue to stay open.

The City of Rochester has much more work to do to ensure that our community is safe, open, welcoming and inclusive for everyone. We are striving to live out our professed values as a compassionate community, and acknowledge the lived experiences and pain that has and is being shared right now, especially by members of our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) residents. Recent egregious acts, even not within our city, still activate memories of experiences members of our community have had themselves, in other places and within our city.

We stay firmly committed as an organization to listen, to learn, and to build trust across our city, with a concurrent pledge to action. To that end, the City has been and continues to undertake efforts to acknowledge and address inequity in Rochester, including the recently hiring of the first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director.

Although efforts have been underway in the City, we realize we have only just started the work that needs to be done. Our promise to the community includes committing to:

— Address racial inequality in local government through a commitment at all levels of the organization.

— Update all City policies, practices, and procedures using an equity lens.

— Create a better system for effective, responsive, and culturally sensitive engagement.

— The implementation of the Blueprint for Re-envisioning Rochester Police Department, which is a reflection upon and acknowledgement of the need for a cultural change within the law enforcement profession.

— Developing and implementing the first ever City of Rochester Equity Plan.

In order to stand with our entire community, we must acknowledge the pain, both lingering and fresh, being laid bare and caused by racial inequities across our state and country. As an organization and as part of the community, the City of Rochester is committed to standing with our BIPOC community and charting a path forward together.

We affirm the statement made by the City in 2020; We see you. We hear you. We support you.


William "Bud" Whitehorn, community liaison between RPD, Rochester's Black community

We haven't got to the point where we can change the level of trust in the justice system. At least today, we feel noticed. Today, the U.S. judicial system made a statement that maybe there's hope.


Rochester for Justice

Not happy nor sad. While the verdict was appropriate, the workaround ending the current system of community policing in its entirety with a complete paradigm shift should still be the focus.


Liz Boldon, Minnesota DFL Representative — Rochester

I am relieved that the jury decided on guilty verdicts for all three counts today. While we can express relief that Derek Chauvin will receive accountability for his heinous actions, we cannot be satisfied with this as justice. Justice would be a world where George Floyd is alive, well, and valued by our society. We have more work to do to create a world that values Black lives, and I am committed to do my part to create that world. I am hopeful that this is a turning point, and we can work to enact the systemic changes necessary to bring true justice and equality.


Mark Ostrem, Olmsted County Attorney

I didn't watch the evidence as it came in. I have a lot of confidence in the prosecution and what they put in. What was nice for the members of our community is that we all got to see the inside of a courtroom — see a trial from start to finish and kind of get an idea of what the process is like.

I am very hopeful that also gives a lot of confidence to all of our community about our system that we have in place and that it is fair from the state and/or defendant's perspective. Everybody gets their opportunity to give it their best shot, putting their best evidence, and hopefully, everybody in our community can have a better sense of confidence in our system because that does seem to be something that people have expressed a lack of confidence in previously.

On the speed of the verdict:

It seemed like it came a little bit fast because the volume of evidence is so significant. But the flip side of that is clearly the jury had been paying attention all along and following this and when they finally got a chance to talk about it, clearly they were pretty much on the same page. A three-week trial, that is a lot of evidence to review but clearly they were on the same page.


Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis

We would like to thank the jury for their dedicated work and we understand they had an enormous burden. We also want to reach out to the community and still express our deep remorse for their pain, as we feel it every day as well.

There are no winners in this case and we respect the jury's decision. We need the political pandering to stop and the race baiting of elected officials to stop. In addition, we need to stop the divisive comments and we all need to do better to create a Minneapolis we all love.

To all the residents of Minneapolis, the POFM stands with you, and not against you. Looking forward to working together for a safer, better tomorrow.


Kim Norton, Mayor of Rochester

Today justice was served for George Floyd. But the changes needed to assure fairness and justice for all Black people across the country will take sustained focus from all of us. #rochmn #communitypolicing #bethechange

— Kim Norton (@MayorNorton) April 20, 2021


NAACP Rochester Branch


Angie Craig, U.S. Representative

George Floyd's death represented yet another chapter in a long history of our nation's failure to stand up for the basic human rights of every American, particularly those of Black men. It is my sincere hope that today's verdict can one day be understood as a turning point in our nation's history — and that this decision will bring a long overdue sense of peace to George Floyd's family and friends.

While we cannot bring George Floyd back, we can take steps to ensure that tragedies like this are never allowed to occur again. In Congress, I am dedicated to making substantive reforms to our law enforcement system to provide accountability. The House has passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act earlier this year, and the Senate must act now.


Tina Smith, U.S. Senator

Convicting Dereck Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd is a moment of accountability, and also a moment to recommit ourselves to the movement for racial justice his tragic murder sparked.

— Senator Tina Smith (@SenTinaSmith) April 20, 2021


Yezi Gugsa, co-founder of the Rochester Initiative

I did have doubts that the justice system was going to fail the black community once again. The anxiety I was feeling was the most anxiety I've felt in the last year.

We're going to continue to fight for change and demand actions and new policing. We shouldn't even be feeling that much doubt in our hearts. I hope that cycle can be broken.


Paul Gazelka, Minnesota Senate Majority Leader

Every American is entitled to justice through the legal system. Though no verdict will bring George Floyd back, I pray the Floyd family today is in some way comforted knowing the judicial system has provided justice. Today we have been reminded the determination of guilt is best decided by a jury of peers reviewing the facts.


Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Senator

Today's conviction was right. For the Floyd family, nothing will bring back George, but this verdict is a first step towards accountability. Attorney General Keith Ellison and his team did great work prosecuting this case, and the hometown witnesses and police officers who testified displayed such courage in reliving that horrific day and making the case for justice.

This trial was about George Floyd's murder, but it also captured his life. His brother Philonise Floyd introduced us to a devoted son who struggled to tear himself away from his mother's casket, a loving brother who always made sure his siblings had a snack for school, and a dedicated community member who 'just knew how to make people feel better.'

George Floyd should be alive today, and this conviction will not bring him back to us, nor will it bring us total justice. As long as George Floyd isn't around to swap trucking tips with his brother, mark the anniversary of his beloved mother's passing, or hug his children again, there will not be justice. And while Black Americans continue to be subjected to a system that keeps mothers and fathers up at night worrying about whether their children are going to come back home every time they get in the car, we know our work is not done.

As Martin Luther King Jr. once said: 'If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.'

It's long past time the Senate moves forward and passes police reform to hold officers accountable for misconduct, increase transparency in policing practices, and improve police conduct and training, including banning chokeholds. This is the urgent task before us—not for tomorrow, not for next year, but for now.

And today, as we reflect on the life of George Floyd, and appreciate this step towards accountability and the work of the prosecutors, judge and jury, we acknowledge our long and winding march towards justice. We renew our commitment towards securing his legacy—not just as the man whose death shined a light on the undeniable stain of racism on our country—but as the man whose memory inspires us to build a more equitable system.


Minnesota Business Partnership

Today, justice was served and hopefully some measure of healing can begin. This outcome demonstrates that our justice system, while imperfect, can work. We are pleased the jury carefully weighed the evidence and delivered a just verdict in this case, but we also recognize that the struggle for racial equality and equity is far from finished. It is not enough to secure a conviction after an injustice occurs, we must collectively work to adopt policies, practices and behaviors at a community and individual level to prevent the injustice from happening in the first place.

Our state has done important work on police reform, but more remains to be done. We must continue working to ensure our laws conform to high standards and expectations and that the law is enforced fairly and equitably. But achieving true social justice requires measures that go beyond passing and enforcing new laws; our culture, attitudes and behaviors must also change. It is incumbent upon all of us — elected officials, law enforcement agencies and officers, civil servants, community leaders, educators, the business community, and the public — to take bold steps toward building a more equitable state for all Minnesotans.


Tim Walz, Minnesota Governor

Today's verdict is an important step forward for justice in Minnesota. The trial is over, but our work has only begun.

The world watched on May 25, 2020 as George Floyd died with a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Thousands of Minnesotans marched in the streets last summer in the wake of his death—inspiring a movement around the globe. While many of these people never met George, they valued his humanity. They knew what happened was wrong. They called for change, and they demanded justice.

A year later, Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of murder and faces years behind bars.

But we know that accountability in the courtroom is only the first step.

No verdict can bring George back, and my heart is with his family as they continue to grieve his loss. Minnesota mourns with you, and we promise the pursuit of justice for George does not end today.

True justice for George only comes through real, systemic change to prevent this from happening again. And the tragic death of Daunte Wright this week serves as a heartbreaking reminder that we still have so much more work to do to get there.

Too many Black people have lost—and continue to lose—their lives at the hands of law enforcement in our state.

Our communities of color cannot go on like this. Our police officers cannot go on like this. Our state simply cannot go on like this. And the only way it will change is through systemic reform.

We must rebuild, restore, and reimagine the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve. We must tackle racial inequities in every corner of society—from health to home ownership to education. We must come together around our common humanity.

Let us continue on this march towards justice.


Peggy Flanagan, Minnesota Lieutenant Governor

Justice for George Floyd means building a community and a state where everyone is safe. While nothing will bring George back, this verdict is a step toward the vision of justice that sent thousands of people into the streets, demanding change.

In his last moments, George cried out to his mother. His life and his humanity mattered. Our work is not done until every mother's child is safe, valued, and protected. We must be bold in our thinking, steadfast in our commitment to one another, and courageous enough to reimagine what true public safety means. And we must never forget George Floyd's daughter, who will grow up without a father.

The grief and pain of so many Minnesotans doesn't go away with one verdict, even a verdict towards justice. And the legacy of this moment and this movement does not end today.


Ken Martin, Minnesota DFL Party Chairman

I am grateful that our legal system has reached a just verdict and held George Floyd's murderer accountable, particularly given how often it fails to deliver justice in the cases of clear police misconduct towards Black Americans. It is my sincere hope that today's ruling is the beginning of a new paradigm wherein law enforcement is held to account when they abuse the trust and authority placed in them.

While George Floyd's murderer is going to jail, the fact remains that the very systems which led to this tragedy in the first place still exist. Thankfully, there was justice in the courts today, and now we need justice for George Floyd in the legislature. George Floyd should still be alive today, and until we pass serious police reform and accountability measures, the likelihood of this happening again here remains very high.

Our state and national legislatures have work in front of them to pass real police reform and accountability measures to deliver on the promises we have made to ensure this never happens again. The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party is committed to delivering those necessary reform measures and creating a public safety system that does right by each and every one of us.


Michael Wojcik, former Rochester council member

#JusticeForGeorgeFloyd would mean is was still alive today. #accountability is the next best thing. We have taken a murderer and a corrupt cop off the streets. 3 more to come! #BlackLivesMatter

— Michael Wojcik (@VoteWojcik) April 20, 2021


Rochester Police Department statement prior to verdict

Regardless of the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, the Rochester Police Department reaffirms our commitment to providing the community the highest level of public safety. Through these challenging times, we remain dedicated to our core values — including respect, compassion and service. We believe that every contact counts and that policing with our hearts is essential to building trust and legitimacy. We share this community's concerns. With partnership and collaboration, we will strive toward a stronger Rochester.