ITHACA, N.Y.—George Floyd’s killing last year sparked a wave of protests that emanated outwards from Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. The protests were wide-ranging in nature, but primarily called for an end to the racist and, at times, brutal treatment of Black people by law enforcement and provoked one of the largest gatherings in recent Ithaca history on June 3 and months of weekly protests thereafter.
Chauvin was convicted April 20 of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death, marking a rare instance when a police officer is convicted of violent crimes committed while on the job.
“Following this senseless killing we rose up and acknowledged that this is not what policing looks like – a knee on a man’s neck, shrouds of bullets following a no-knock warrant, racial profiling, none of this is what we entrust our law enforcement officers with nor is it what we should expect of them or accept from them,” said Tompkins County Legislature Chair Leslyn McBean-Clairborne in a statement on behalf of the legislature. “We took on a collaborative reimagining of public safety in our community in an effort to prevent future tragedies from happening here, and to ensure a more harmonious and sustainable relationship between law enforcement and our communities. It is imperative that we build upon this work and push even farther to a place of more just outcomes and safer communities for us all.”
But, as was the prevailing sentiment in plenty of places, there’s also a sense that while Tuesday’s decision was a step in the right direction for holding police accountable, it’s actual significance now lies in what happens next week, next month and next year to address structural racism, particularly that which exists in policing. As many repeated yesterday, convicting a police officer after the nation watched him suffocate a Black man for nearly 10 minutes does represent a very low bar.
“The murder of George Floyd sparked a revolution—millions of people demanding a new form of public safety, as well as accountability for the person who murdered George,” said Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick. “Today a jury delivered accountability—and sent a clear message that Black lives matter. But the rest of the revolution is up to us. Most of us know that George Floyd’s death was unjust. But we have to acknowledge that if George had been placed, breathing, into the back of that cop car—that too would have been the symptom of an unjust system. A system whose injustices go beyond policing, and includes housing, healthcare, education and the broader economy.”
Myrick continued that any momentum from this needs to be used to end other forms of racial inequality that remain pervasive in America.
Justice is George Floyd never dying. Justice is also him never ending up in cuffs in the first place. Justice is a system that invests in people.
Reimagine public safety.
End the war on drugs.
End mass incarceration.
— Mayor Svante Myrick (@SvanteMyrick) April 20, 2021
McBean-Clairborne echoed that sentiment.
“While this verdict is an acknowledgment of the terror inflicted on Black lives, no matter the outcome of this trial we know that justice cannot be fully served because George Floyd cannot be brought back to life,” she said. “These decisions by our justice system often leave us in pain and disillusion – palpable and salient emotions – but encourage you to be resolved as a community that we will not stand for systemic inequity and will use all of the powers of the citizenry to continue to overcome all forms of oppression.”
State Assemblywoman Anna Kelles also weighed in briefly, tweeting her reaction to the news.
No one is above the law! pic.twitter.com/ViguBryvzx
— Anna Kelles (@annakelles) April 20, 2021