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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

Grand Rapids activists say there's still work to be done after Chauvin's "guilty" verdict

Local activists react to Chauvin's "guilty" verdict
Kylie Ambu

Former Minneapolis Police Officer, Derek Chauvin, has been found guilty on two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd. The highly-anticipated decision came down from the jury Tuesday evening, as activists across the country took to the streets.

Justice For Black Lives mobilized in Grand Rapids' downtown on Breonna Taylor Way. They approached with cheers, but soon shared criticism about the justice process. 

"Why does it take so long to find him guilty. Why do we have to constantly go through no after no after no after no acknowledgement," Vice President of JFBL, Danny Santiago, said.

Speaking to the early circle of media and supporters downtown, President Aly Bates said "This verdict means a lot it means the world, but it’s still not enough," adding "...It’s a good thing we got justice for George Floyd, but we also got to keep in mind all the other people that still haven’t had justice yet. We still have to talk about Breonna Taylor. We still have to talk about Tamir Rice. We still have to press for justice for Daunte Wright and the lives that are continuously taken from us by police, the people who are supposed to protect and serve us.”

While Santiago and Bates called the decision a "happy moment" for Floyd's family, they also acknowledged the traumatic effects of the trial.

"There was no reason that we had to sit there and go through the trauma of George Floyd being murdered over and over and over again. Why do we have to have a trial for a murder we all saw? That man (Chauvin) sat there in the courtroom…and he had the option to plead guilty, and he sat there and watch him murder a man for weeks every single day. His family had to see that on national TV every single day," Bates said.

Bates told WGVU she hopes the verdict will spur on the greater movement to abolish qualified immunity. 

Aiming locally, she told the crowd there's work to be done within the Grand Rapids Police Department, saying, "Police brutality does not always result in a death. We get brutalized by the police all the time here. Nobody should have to die in Grand Rapids, Michigan by the hands of police for people to understand that there’s a problem here."

After a series of closing thoughts on the verdict, JFBL marched through downtown Grand Rapids, starting and ending at Breonna Taylor Way. As the group pushes forward, they vow to continue saying and remembering George Floyd's name.

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