SU, local leaders supportive of ex-police officer’s guilty verdict

SU, local leaders support Chauvin guilty verdict

The May 2020 death of George Floyd prompted calls for police reform at social justice rallies nationwide.
Published: April 20, 2021 | Updated: April 22nd, 2021 at 7:15 pm
Celebration After Derek Chauvin Found Guilty on All Counts
Syracuse activists gather outside the Syracuse Public Safety Building on Tuesday to celebrate the guilty conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd.

The murder conviction of a former Minneapolis police officer in the death of George Floyd on Tuesday offered a sense that justice had prevailed among Syracuse University students and civic leaders.

A Minnesota jury of six women and six men spent 10 and a half hours deliberating before deciding to convict former officer Derek Chauvin of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin could receive 12.5 years in prison for each of the murder charges and four years for the manslaughter charge, according to Minnesota sentencing guidelines.

The video of Floyd’s May 25 death in which Chauvin is seen pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck was widely viewed and prompted rallies nationally and globally, calling for social justice and reforms to local police forces.

In a statement sent out to students and faculty Tuesday, Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syvreud acknowledged that while today’s decision brought the trial to a close, no one verdict can end the pain and suffering brought on by Floyd’s death.

“No verdict solves the underlying problems that racism inflicts on Black Americans every day,” Syverud said. “There is much work to be done in our country. There is work to be done here at Syracuse University.”

Upon hearing the news of the guilty verdict, sophomore television, radio, and film student Luke Berninger said he was very happy because justice had been served. He said Tuesday’s outcome is a starting point towards ensuring that officers are held accountable for their actions.

“My reaction wasn’t verbal; it was physical. I fist-pumped into the air when I read that the verdict was ‘guilty’,” Berninger said. “It was a very exciting moment because it was a rare moment where justice was carried out.”

David Bruen, a political science and policy studies sophomore and candidate for Student Association president, echoed Syverud’s sentiments about today’s decision. Bruen said he was not surprised by the verdict, but rather would have been more surprised if Chauvin was found not guilty of any one of the charges.

In a Tweet Tuesday evening, Bruen asserted that justice is not just a singular act, but rather a  “system that must be maintained.”

“This is a step towards justice, but this trial has been about accountability,” Bruen said. “This decision is not justice. Justice would have been this not happening in the first place. Going forward justice will be ensuring that something like this never happens again and that laws do not protect people who murder someone just because of their job. That’s what justice will be, a better justice system.”

Dustin Hall, junior policy studies student and chairman of College Republicans at SU, said he was also pleased with the charges announced today against Chauvin. Leading up to the verdict, he said he was unsure of what to expect given that it was a jury trial.

“The verdict was good news overall, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. We can see that every time we turn on the TV,” Hall said. “I think there are still a lot of conversations that need to be had, and they’re not going to be easy.”

Bruen said he hopes today’s decision will not be taken lightly and that people use the verdict as a starting point to continue to move forward and overcome racial inequalities.

“I don’t want people to just shrug this off, or think that this is some sacrifice for a greater end because it’s not,” Bruen said. “This was a terrible, terrible thing that happened … I think the most important thing to emphasize is ‘let us not move on from this, and [instead] let us continue so we shall overcome.'”

Hall said he is hopeful for the future and addressing broader issues in police reforms. He said today’s verdict showed the United States justice system works, it just needs time.

“I definitely think justice prevailed today, and I think it showed that our system works if you give it time,” Hall said. “We live in a society now where we want something [done] in 30 seconds and so this is a prime example of ‘yes the system works.’ It just takes more time.”

Celebration After Derek Chauvin Found Guilty on All Counts
A pair of supporters embrace during the opening moments of a gathering Tuesday outside the Syracuse Public Safety Building following the murder conviction of ex-police officer Derek Chauvin.

While also happy with the outcome of the verdict, sophomore political science student Amanda Kruman said it should have come sooner. She said the fact that several others who were killed by police still have not yet received justice is problematic and needs to change.

“The timing of this entire trial has been dehumanizing for Floyd and his family, and if justice was really at stake, he would have never been killed, and the justice system would have acted so much quicker than it has,” Kruman said. “This also goes for Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and several other people murdered by police who have not received justice yet.”

Local leaders also weighed in Tuesday evening after the verdict was released. Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh took to Twitter, stating that he hopes the decision brings comfort to Floyd’s family in knowing that justice has been served.

Andrea Stewart-Cousins, New York State Senate majority leader, said, while she believes Tuesday’s verdict is an important step towards accountability, a guilty verdict does not equate to true justice being served. She said in a tweet that Americans should look to bring reforms for a better policing system that “keeps our communities safe instead of tearing them apart.”

In a statement sent out to students and families Tuesday evening, Jaime Alicea, superintendent of schools at the Syracuse City School District, said that the district hopes that today’s verdict will help begin the process of healing as the country continues to grapple with issues of racism and inequality. She also stressed the district’s commitment to sustaining an equitable community for the success of all students and staff.

Katie Scoville contributed to this report.