One week after Derek Chauvin verdict, Lansing leaders and activists respond

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By Josh Bootsma

LANSING, Ill. (April 27, 2021) – It’s been a week since a Minneapolis jury found police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes in May 2020.

Floyd’s death ignited passionate responses across the nation, including Lansing. Community members gathered in protest and prayer, speaking out against both injustice and looting.

The Lansing Journal covered many of those responses (see links throughout this article). Now, roughly 11 months later, The Lansing Journal revisited those events and asked participants for comments in response to Chauvin’s conviction. Some individuals and organizations did not reply to our request for comment. Those who did are included below.

Concerned Citizens of Lansing

On June 13, the Concerned Citizens of Lansing organized a protest march that ended at the clock tower on Ridge Road. The demonstration drew an estimated crowd of 300 people that listened to multiple speeches from event organizers and community stakeholders.

Concerned Citizens of Lansing founder Dan Stellfox provided the following comment — which has been edited for length — on behalf of the group:

A sigh of relief. This verdict should surely be celebrated as our country’s history of police brutality has seen little if any accountability for officer misconduct. This history of police brutality is why the flood of relief overcoming us is so troubling. In a case in which a nine-minute video captured by a witness shows Derek Chauvin’s knee on George Floyd’s neck, we feel relief. In a case in which the officer’s own superiors and experts brought into testify painted him as guilty, we feel relief. Logic told us Derek Chauvin is guilty of murder. There was never a doubt.

Then why relief? History tells us that no matter how convincing evidence may be in police brutality cases, the chances of seeing accountability for misconduct are slim to none. It is a true testament to the change that is needed within our justice system as stress and anxiety course through our bones while watching a case so clear cut. Perhaps we feel relief because a year after we watched the murder of George Floyd, nothing has changed.

Regardless, that relief is now pain. In the last two weeks alone, police shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright, 16-year-old Ma’khia Bryant, and 13-year-old Adam Toledo. In response to the continued pattern of police brutality, the Concerned Citizens of Lansing have approached the Village of Lansing administration to establish a Citizen’s Review Board to promote accountability and transparency within the police department. Mayor Eidam and her administration clearly oppose increasing police accountability in Lansing as they refuse to engage in talks to start a review board. The Derek Chauvin verdict brought us relief. With the loss of three young Black and brown lives fresh in our mind, that relief is gone. We want justice NOW. We want accountability NOW. We want better from our leaders NOW.

The Lansing Community Coalition

The Lansing Community Coalition has been vocal at recent Village Board meetings, offering public comments critiquing the Village of Lansing and the Lansing Police Department for its lack of diversity. The Coalition was instrumental in helping create a Memorandum of Understanding in 2017 and 2018 in the Village of Lansing, and has released multiple statements on diversity and representation in its four-year history.

The following is a portion of a comment provided by Elvis Slaughter, president of the Lansing Community Coalition:

Derek Chauvin was found guilty by a jury of his peers. The incident was live, and the world watched as a police officer killed a human being with his knee on the person’s neck. Too often, police kill Black and brown people committing a misdemeanor and, at many times, no crime at all. This must stop!

Like most Americans, we feel relief from this conviction and grateful that the case went the way it did. We look forward to the U.S. Justice Department for due diligence in its investigations of these crimes and Congress passing the George Floyd Bill.

Michelle Ford is the Communications Coordinator at the Lansing Community Coalition, and provided the comment — edited for length — below:

The way George Floyd died was so heinous, Chauvin’s peers had to speak out. I hope their bravery in “stepping up” will encourage other officers to say to bad apples, “I will not lose my family, my livelihood, my liberty because of you. Your actions do not represent me.” There is a segment of society that must understand even if someone complies or asks a constitutionally-proper question their outcome still might not be good. There is always someone who says, “If only he’d complied.” Real life does not work that way for every citizen in this country.

I can hope that humans will grow to be more humane towards one another. If a detainee says, “I can’t breathe,” the complaint should be taken seriously. If the detainee is lying, that is on them, think about what can be lost if they really “can’t breathe.” I call for more humanity, de-escalation, and common-sense policing.

Roberto Mendoza, a member of the Coalition, provided the following comment:

Derek Chauvin is a symptom of cancer. His being found guilty does not end it. Just a few moments before the verdict were announced, there was an incident in Columbus, OH. And the recent shooting of the 13-year-old in Chicago shows the nation that we still have a long road ahead of us. Until there is a change in how police are trained, this cancer will only grow. We must continue to demand changes and ensure that those changes stay enforced. We must make our voices heard. We cannot just depend on our leaders to make promises, yet we do not hold them accountable. Let us hope this episode becomes the turning point.

Village of Lansing and Lansing Police

As protests began to take shape in Lansing last June, the Village of Lansing and the Lansing Police Department worked with protestors to make sure demonstrations would be held safely. The Mayor also released a statement at the June 16, 2020, Board meeting that condemned the looting that had occurred in the Village and supported peaceful protestors.

Mayor Eidam’s statement following the Derek Chauvin verdict is below:

With a verdict now reached in the trial in Minneapolis, I am reminded of how the Village of Lansing and three different groups of citizens worked together at the height of last June’s tension to coordinate events balancing the rights of those who wished to protest with the need to protect both active participants and bystanders. I want to again commend our Lansing Police Department and the leaders of these three groups for their willingness to work toward the common goal of peaceful demonstrations. I encourage all Lansing residents to learn about and participate in what our Village is already doing in the areas of community policing and neighborhood outreach to ensure the best possible outcomes in future interactions between the Lansing Police Department and Lansing residents. For more information, residents can call (708) 895-7163 or view the police department’s web page at www.villageoflansing.org.

Regional and state leaders

Beyond the local boundaries of Lansing, other leaders have shared their thoughts on the verdict as well.

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said, in part:

No courtroom can ever replace a life, but it can and should deliver justice. Today, the jury in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial honored that truth. My heart goes out to the family of George Floyd, who deserve to have him alive today. I’m also thinking of all our Black communities and other communities of color who see their children or their parents or themselves in George Floyd, and Daunte Wright, and Adam Toledo, and Breonna Taylor, and Laquan McDonald.

This verdict marks an important milestone on the journey to justice, but the fullest measure of progress is how we deliver accountability, safety and meaningful change.

Congresswoman Robin Kelly, a Democrat of the 2nd Illinois District said, in part:

Today’s verdict is a step toward justice for the family of George Floyd and a critical moment in our nation’s quest for the just treatment of Black people. … Mr. Floyd should not have had to die for our nation to reckon with police brutality. His murder has once again pulled back the curtain on the unfair treatment Black people often face at the hands of law enforcement. People of color across the country fear police brutality every single day, and one conviction is not going to change that.

We must pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and additional bold police reforms. We cannot lose one single person more to police violence. I will continue working with my colleagues to ensure that everyone in our country will be protected from police brutality.

Ultimately, George Floyd’s legacy will be one of hope, of change and progress. Black Lives Matter.

While some individuals and organizations did not reply to The Lansing Journal’s request for comment, those that did are included above.

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