Activists, city leaders in New Haven react to Chauvin guilty verdicts

New Haven

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — A sigh of relief Tuesday for many who have been waiting, holding their breath for the verdict in the George Floyd murder case.

Ex-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd.

RELATED: ‘We should have never had to fight this hard’: CT community, leaders react to guilty verdicts in trial of Derek Chauvin

Many across the nation and here in New Haven were waiting to see if there would be any accountability in the killing. For many, the guilty verdict on all three counts was just that.

As the news of the verdict came down Tuesday afternoon, community activists and city leaders took in the news that, for many, signals that a change is possible. That police officers who fail to execute their role to protect and serve can and will be held responsible for their actions – something often has not been the reality for Black and brown communities across the country.

Tuesday, community members say while this is just one case in a system that has historically targeted and disenfranchised Black bodies, they say it is a moment for this country to remember.

Meredith Benson of Black Lives Matter New Haven said, “Taking a moment of joy because I think sometimes, you know, we can say often that there is still so much work to do. But taking the moment in and just grateful that for George Floyd there is justice for him and also realizing that there is so much work to be done.”

New Haven leaders are also reacting to the guilty verdicts.

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker released a statement saying, in part:

We all will remember Monday, May 25, 2020. That day and those that followed have fundamentally driven the national call for addressing racism, police brutality, inequality, and the pitfalls of our criminal justice system and how we can make efforts to fix them.

On May 25th of last year, the nation could not breathe. The knee of Derek Chauvin suffocated George Floyd with the weight of hundreds of years of racism and hatred. A weight manifested that further embodied white supremacy and exemplified the issues that are still unresolved from a half-century ago during the Civil Rights Movement. Let’s face it: the country is divided, and these incidents have been happening all along. It is just now that we are documenting them with our cell phones, calling them out in our everyday lives, and standing up for equality in America, and fighting back against hate.

And today’s news means that we have one slight semblance of justice within this journey for equality in America.

Though we are not perfect, the New Haven Police Department continues to improve in its work on police reform and community relations. We are working hard to ensure accountability on officers and re-envision policing through the efforts of our Police Commission which is comprised of both community representatives and experts in policing reform, by creating a Crisis Response team for incidents that would benefit from a social service response rather than a police response, and by implementing more robust de-escalation training, and recognizing that officer training does not end when you graduate the academy.

Most importantly, we recognize that safety means ensuring our community has the resources to thrive. I am committed to improving what I do have authority over here in New Haven.

WEB EXTRA: News Haven Mayor Justin Elicker reacts to guilty verdicts in Chauvin trial, addresses policing, systemic racism.

WEB EXTRA: News Haven Acting Police Chief Renee Dominguez reacts to Chauvin guilty verdicts

“What we really need to reflect and focus on is how we are able to move forward in policing, as a nation, and as a community,” Chief Renee Dominguez said. “We want the community to know we are here to support, keep them safe, and do our jobs.”

The city’s Board of Aldermen leadership also released a statement following the verdict:

The George Floyd Murder case has reached a verdict of guilty on all three charges. This case, through due process, has produced a degree of accountability which is a bittersweet victory. Bittersweet because it shows that there is still more work to do for there to be true justice for our communities.

We will not have true justice and accountability until there is an enacted plan for comprehensive criminal justice reform with public safety for all, good jobs for our communities in need, affordable quality housing, access to healthcare, and environmental justice. This is what the Board of Alders stands for and what we will continue to fervently work toward.

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