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Queens Officials React to Derek Chauvin Verdict, Say That It’s No Time for Celebration

Protesters on Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside last year following the death of George Floyd (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

April 21, 2021 By Ryan Songalia

Elected officials across Queens praised the verdicts in the Derek Chauvin case Tuesday, but said true justice remains a work in progress.

Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was found guilty on all three charges related to the May 2020 killing of unarmed Black man George Floyd, including second-degree unintentional murder, third degree murder and second degree manslaughter.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said that while the jury handed down the correct verdict it’s no time for celebration. He said he can’t overlook the times other police-linked shootings failed to return convictions.

“Although today’s decision is just and welcomed, there is no cause for celebration today,” Richards said in a statement yesterday. “No verdict will reunite George Floyd’s children with their father or his siblings with their brother. “

Derek Chauvin, the former policeman convicted of killing George Floyd. (Creative Commons image)

 “On its own, today’s ruling should not be momentous — we’ve all watched Derek Chauvin brutally murder another human being on camera. But while this trial has ended, with justice finally been served for an unarmed Black man killed by law enforcement, let this day be just the start of our shared fight to rid our criminal justice complex of the systemic racism that has infected it for centuries.”

Richards’ sentiments were echoed by his predecessor, and current Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.

“Today a jury spoke for justice and accountability. We keep the family of George Floyd in our thoughts,” Katz said. “The work to ensure a fair system for all continues.”

The killing of George Floyd touched off demonstrations around the world last summer, some of which brought protesters into direct conflict with police.

New York City became a focal point for the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, including across Queens.

While more progressive neighborhoods like Sunnyside and Astoria had frequent demonstrations and marches, the conflicts were most heated in more conservative enclaves like Bayside, where Black Lives Matter counter-protesters clashed with participants of a “Back the Blue.” Meanwhile, in Whitestone, a man described as the “Whitestone Wolverine” is facing nine counts of attempted murder for targeting protesters.

Chauvin faces a maximum of 40 years in prison, though Minnesota’s presumptive guidelines for the most serious charge for someone without a prior criminal record is 12 1/2 years.

State Senator James Sanders Jr. said he felt justice had been “served to a degree” but feels the 12 1/2 year sentence Chauvin likely faces wouldn’t be long enough.

“This is the first time in my lifetime that I have seen a white police officer convicted of killing a black man,” Sanders said. “This is one small victory. There will be many more victories needed before we see true change.”

State Sen. Jessica Ramos echoed President Joe Biden’s call for congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants, while making it easier to prosecute police officers.

“Our justice system needs to do what it is supposed to do every single time, but real justice comes in fully-funded public schools, affordable & supportive housing, and healthcare for all,” Ramos said.

State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris added: “Cops are not above the law and accountability should be a given. Justice has been too fleeting in our society but today, it was realized in this case. More work still to do.”

Protesters in Astoria last summer @JLa_NYC via Twitter

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said “this verdict is not a substitute for policy change.”

For Khaleel Anderson, the youngest African American to ever serve in the New York State Assembly, the case became personal.

“This verdict speaks to me and people who look like me. We matter, we matter, we matter,” Anderson said. “When murder is committed, a badge and gun should never be an excuse to kill with impunity.”

All three of the borough’s Black city council members, I. Daneek Miller, Adrienne Adams and Selvana Brooks-Powers, issued statements afterward the verdict.

“While today’s verdict brings a sense of justice and relief, it can never undo the pain endured by George Floyd’s family and loved ones, the countless others victimized and killed at the hands of police, and all those of good conscience continuously retraumatized by the systemic racism deeply embedded within law enforcement and indeed the fabric of this country,” said Miller, who represents District 27.

“We must continue to fight for change to deliver justice for communities harmed by law enforcement,” said District 28 Council Member Adams.

“I was nervous and anxious along [with] everyone else,” admits District 31 Council Member Brooks-Powers. “While this was an obvious open/close case, we know the end result doesn’t always result in accountability.

“Let us not let up in the fight for justice.”

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