NEW YORK, USA (CMC) – In a case that gripped global attention, Caribbean and other elected officials have welcomed the conviction on Tuesday of the white former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, in the May 25 death last year of George Floyd.
The 12-member mixed race jury deliberated for just over 10 hours before declaring Chauvin, 45, guilty on all three charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
A video, captured by a teenage girl, which was repeatedly shown in the televised court hearing, showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds, as he pleaded for his life, before dying. Floyd was 46.
“Derek Chauvin was given the due process he denied George Floyd, and he must serve his sentence,” Caribbean American Democratic Congresswoman Yvette D Clarke told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).
“He was convicted and found guilty on all three counts. While this verdict will not bring George Floyd back, this is also a proud day for America,” added Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the largely Caribbean 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York.
Clarke’s congressional colleague, Hakeem Jeffries, who represents the adjacent 8th Congressional District that includes a significant number of Caribbean nationals, said that in the aftermath of Floyd’s killing, “people of goodwill throughout America spoke up, stood up and showed up to demand justice.
“The jury has spoken and delivered a just verdict by convicting Derek Chauvin of murder,” said Jeffries, chairman of the House of Representative’s Democratic Caucus.
Veteran New York State Assemblyman Nick Perry, the Jamaican-born representative for the predominantly Caribbean 58th Assembly District in Brooklyn, applauded the guilty verdict.
But he added, “as we celebrate, we should be careful not to fool ourselves and fully understand that the struggle for freedom and equality in America has really just begun.
New York State Assemblywoman, Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, the Haitian-American chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, said Tuesday’s verdict “will not bring George Floyd back, but I pray it will bring some sense of peace to his family.
“By holding Derek Chauvin accountable in this case, the court and jury set a precedent,” said Bichotte Hermelyn, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn.
New York City Public Advocate, Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadians, said while Floyd’s family received “some semblance of justice, or at least accountability,” he felt their pain, as well as “the perpetual pain of blacks in America from a wound that never really has time to scar over, much less heal, before it is again ripped open by a headline, a video, a verdict.
“So, while I’m relieved the jury reached the right decision, that Derek Chauvin will face consequences, I’m not celebrating,” Williams said, adding “it’s hard to truly breathe a sigh of relief when George Floyd cannot. Derek Chauvin is guilty, but George Floyd is dead.”
New York City Council Member Farah Louis, another daughter of Haitian immigrants, said Tuesday’s verdict “goes beyond simply providing justice for George Floyd and his family.
“It will symbolise justice for the countless lives lost, including New York City’s own Eric Garner, at the hands of officers who seem to disregard the fact that we are innocent until proven guilty,” said Louis, vice co-chair of the Black Latino and Asian Caucus (BLAC) in the City Council.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a black former captain with the New York Police Department (NYPD), described the verdict as “a victory for justice.
“But, as recent events have reminded us, the work of ending police abuse – a cause to which I have dedicated my life – is far from over,” said Adams, a candidate for New York City Mayor in June’s Democratic Primary.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, who traces his roots to Jamaica, said while Tuesday decision “is just and welcomed, there is no cause for celebration today.
“No verdict will reunite George Floyd’s children with their father or his siblings with their brother. There is no ruling that will soothe the anguish George’s family feels every day, knowing his final nine minutes and 29 seconds were spent gasping for air beneath the knee of a police officer for the entire
New York Attorney General Letitia James, an ardent supporter of the Caribbean community in New York, said there is finally accountability for this atrocious crime that stole the life of a father, brother, son and friend.
“I pray that the Floyd family finds some semblance of justice and peace for this horribly unjust act. While true justice will never be served as long as black men and women are subjected to such inequality, today, we are one step closer to a fairer system.”
US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the daughter of a Jamaican father and Indian mother, spoke at the White House after Chauvin’s conviction for murder and manslaughter.
While applauding the verdict, Biden said, in a nationwide address, that it was “too rare” a step to render “basic accountability” for black Americans.
“It was a murder in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see. For so many, it feels like it took all of that for the judicial system to deliver just basic accountability.”
Harris is urging the US Senate to pass a measure, which she had helped sponsor as a senator, that will reform policing in the US, describing it as a part of Floyd’s legacy.
“Today, we feel a sigh of relief. Still, it cannot take away the pain. A measure of justice is not the same as equal justice.”
Chauvin will be sentenced in eight weeks. The judge in the case can sentence him to prison for up to 40 years.
Prosecutors, however, are asking for a stiffer sentence, arguing that children were present when Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck, suffocating him, and that Chauvin treated Floyd with “particular cruelty” in abusing “his position of authority.”