[UPDATED] Pasadena and Southland leaders reacted quickly Tuesday to the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd.
Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter by a jury after less than two days of deliberation.
“Today, the jury convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd,” said Mayor Victor Gordo. “While this is significant accountability, no decision can bring back Mr. Floyd from a death that should not have happened. “This conviction on all counts is an affirmation that we must hold officers accountable when their actions are found to be unlawful and when they violate their policies and training. The verdict cannot bring Mr. Floyd back to his family and loved ones, but it does move us forward toward accountability, progress, and healing. We must continue to do the work to address the racial disparity, systemic racism, and prejudice when they are present in the very public institutions that are supposed to protect and serve our communities.”
Chauvin killed Floyd on May 25 after he placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes during an arrest after Floyd allegedly attempted to pass a counterfeit $20 bill in Minneapolis.
Floyd’s death came at a time when racial tensions were running high in the nation.
“The death of Mr. Floyd is a tragic situation and I trust the justice system has come to an appropriate verdict,” said Pasadena Police Chief John Perez. “The Pasadena Police Department is dedicated to the advancement in law enforcement practices while maintaining open lines of communication with members of the community. We remain committed to professional policing, holding our officers accountable and building trust with the Pasadena community.”
Some local residents visited a memorial dedicated to Anthony McClain, a Pasadena man shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in August.
“I wanted to connect with other community members,” said local activist James Farr.
The verdict comes as communities across the nation continue to deal with the chasm between Black residents and police.
For decades, Black parents have been forced to have talks with their sons at an early age to instill wisdom on how to survive police encounters.
“I have a moral responsibility to teach my children right from wrong,” Farr said. “I have the added burden because my children are Black that their decisions could involve someone calling the police on them. A simple trip to the pool with toys could trigger Karen.”
Karen is the generic name popularly used to describe white women who call the police on Black men and women for no other reason than the color of their skin.
“[After] my 6-year-old son [asked] why do police kill Black men. I said, damn, the talk will start years earlier than my father had with me,” Farr said.
The city is in the process of seating an 11-member community police oversight commission, but efforts to name commissioners from local organizations stalled on Monday.
“My thoughts are with the family of George Floyd as they struggle with the tremendous grief from the loss of a son, father, brother, nephew, and friend,” said Patrice Marshall McKenzie, who is vying for a seat on the commission. “I saw justice carried out today in the verdict, but will continue to fight for the day when a conviction for wrongdoing is the norm and not the exception. I also look forward to the day when no more families’ lives are shattered by police violence.”
Floyd’s death set off protests in Pasadena that were attended by thousands of people and remained peaceful. In other parts of the nation, protesters responded with violence.
Locally the incident pushed the City Council to pass an ordinance establishing the yet-to-be seated police oversight commission.
“This verdict only makes me hopeful for justice,” said Esprit Jones who has been selected to represent District 1 on the oversight commission. “Accountability was exhibited, justice is another thing entirely. I am hopeful for sentencing to carry the appropriate weight. I’m hopeful to see the same accountability leading to justice for Anthony McClain here in Pasadena. It’s disgusting that George Floyd and Anthony McClain, amongst many others, have been stolen away from their loved ones. I value the uniqueness of their respective matters to bring about change in the ways accountability and justice are presented. I’m here for accountability and justice!”
Councilmember John Kennedy who was the lone voice for police oversight on the City Council for several years called the verdict a wake up call.
“In my view, George Floyd is a messenger and harbinger to confirm that justice is on the way, not just in policing, but in all the horrors that have been perpetrated against, Coloreds, Negroes, Blacks, and African Americans, as well as other ethnic groups and women in this country,” Kennedy said.
“Minnesota v. Chauvin, – Chauvin guilty on all counts is a wake up verdict that delivers a clarion exultation that policing must be rooted in justice, accountability, transparency, and best in class community-focused service.
“The multiracial and gender diverse jury in Minneapolis heard and saw the evidence against Officer Chauvin and were left no choice but to call Officer Chauvin to the bar of justice so that he will suffer the fate of the evil convict that he is.
“The wheels of justice oftentimes turn slower that we would like, but when they turn right, they turn ever so finely. Justice was served today in a Minneapolis Courtroom today. I am relieved, but I will not be satisfied until every rogue cop stops giving upstanding and justice/focused policing agency in this country a bad name. Bad and corrupt law enforcement officers across America must be forced out of the noble profession of policing.
“That is certainly what every good cops wants to happen.
In the final analysis, George Floyd was a martyr to the cause of justice. He is a messenger who speaks the truth that as a society we must all say “no more” to the racial horrors that have been perpetrated for centuries. Chauvin is a rogue cop and a killer. He was denounced by his police chief and virtually every member of his police department because they heard the message left us by George Floyd. Again, Chauvin was convicted by a multi racial and diverse jury who said “no more.” George Floyd was a martyr, but he lives. I say thank you God!”
Others saw the verdict as a first step in a bigger process.
“All our thoughts are with George Floyd’s friends and family,” said U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Pasadena). “Today was a step in the right direction and tomorrow the work continues.”
The trial was televised across the nation. Despite the video evidence, many African Americans were tentative after it was announced that a verdict had been reached and feared that justice would once again prove to be elusive.
“The prosecution did an excellent job of covering all bases and anticipating the defense’s moves,” said local attorney Pamela Dansby. “The defense attorneys did great with what they had to work with. It was highly charged and I’m grateful that the trial was broadcast for complete transparency. All Americans were able to be a part of the trek toward justice.”
Speaking to the nation, President Joe Biden said he hopes that in the future Black and Brown parents won’t have to be afraid when their children are out of the house.
“They don’t have to worry about whether their sons or daughters will come home after a grocery store run or just walking down the street or driving their car or playing in the park,” Biden said.
“This takes acknowledging and confronting head-on systematic racism and the racial disparities that exist in policing and in our criminal justice system,” he said.
Former City Councilmember Jacque Robinson expressed hope when contacted by Pasadena Now.
“I shared in the collective exhale that today’s conviction provided and hope that it is just the beginning of the green light we needed to demonstrate to officers everywhere that operate in similar fashion that they will be punished to the greatest extent of the law for not fulfilling their professional and moral duty to serve in our communities,” Robinson said.
Last month, Congress approved the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which bans chokeholds, ends racial and religious profiling, eliminates qualified immunity for law enforcement, establishes national standards for the operation of police departments, mandates data collection on police encounters, reprograms existing funds to invest in transformative community-based policing programs, and streamlines federal law to prosecute excessive force and establish independent prosecutors for police investigations.
Pasadena has already banned the use of the chokehold.
On June 17, the House passed the bill, but the legislation has stalled in the Senate.
“Today’s verdict is a step towards justice,” said Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) “The jurors saw what the world saw in that video, which was murder. But justice still has not been served as there were three other officers who did nothing to stop Chauvin who have yet to be tried. Our work towards justice for George Floyd and countless victims of deadly and excessive force by police officers will continue.”
U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena) may have put it best.
Chu said she hopes the verdict brings some comfort to Floyd’s family, but “I know that no ruling can ever heal the wounds left behind by institutionalized violence.”