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Reactions to George Floyd verdict are visceral

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If a picture is worth a thousand words as the old adage goes, what is nearly a 10-minute video posted to a social media network that is used by more than 2.6 billion people monthly across the world worth?

When Darnella Frazer, then 17, used her phone to video record what was happening between now fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and George Floyd and uploaded it to Facebook on May 25, 2020, the recorded incident turned evidence in the subsequent trial was most likely instrumental to the Chauvin’s conviction on all three charges, including one charge each of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, 11 months later on April 20.

Dr. Gregory Stanislaus, pastor of St. John Church in Inwood, said that as a person of color he should be “excited” with the verdict, but thinks that he and other people of color “should not have to be surprised about this verdict,” knowing full well that if it was a person of color accused of killing a white police officer “this verdict would have never been in question.”

“When I first saw the video of the murder of Mr. Floyd, I really could not believe I was seeing what I was seeing,” Stanislaus said in an email, calling the incident “murder in broad daylight.” “But when the reality settled in, I was overwhelmed with a deep pain I rarely ever feel. I realized that this was not the first murder of a Black man, only the first time it was caught in real time on social media. Emmet Till and so many others have been murdered without any justice. “Let’s see if this is a true turning point in the racial tensions in this country, this is the beginning of the beginning realizing that Black Lives Matter TO.

\Floyd was alleged to have used a counterfeit $20 bill at a store. Chauvin was one of four officers who responded to the scene. In the subsequent actions, Chauvin pinned Floyd to the ground and remained on top of him for nearly nine and half minutes, which led to Floyd’s death. Chauvin will be sentenced in June. With his bail revoked he is in jail. The three other officers, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, will be tried together in August.

“I was traumatized watching that video,” said County Legislator Carrié Solages (D-Lawrence), who called the Floyd murder a “public execution.” “I think any person of any age group I spoke to whether they be in their 70s or white or black were disgusted when they saw in that video.”

Killings do not stop

Despite Chauvin’s the conviction the killing of people of color, especially Black people, by police does not stop. On the same day Chauvin was convicted Ma’Khia Bryant, 16, a Black young woman was shot by police in Columbus, Ohio, the fourth police killing in the same city in four months. Andrew Brown Jr. a Black man was shot and killed in Elizabeth City, North Carolina on April 22. Nine days before the Chauvin verdict, Daunte Wright, a Black man, was shot and killed by police in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis.

As an African-American male watching the video of George Floyd being murdered was chilling to say the least,” Inwood resident Ilyssha Shivers said in an email. “To see another unarmed Black male tortured and executed goes to speak a lot about the culture of policing in this country.” He also referred to the Bryant murder.

"Images of violence surround us, whether in real life or in the entertainment we watch," Valley Stream resident Phyllis Weinberger said. “We have conditioned ourselves to witness violence as an everyday occurrence,” she said in an email. “We watch in shock and horror each day at another senseless murder. To escape it we switch to network TV or Netflix and watch guns blazing while actors scramble for their lives and their careers.

“Yes, we were all horrified as we watch George Floyd being mercilessly murdered but I was equally sickened by the tragic deaths of Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland and countless others. The question becomes how do we deal with the violence that is deep rooted in America since its beginning.”

Accountability and transparency

Noting that previous experiences and statistics support that many Black men have had injurious interactions with the police, Solages said he has received many phone calls from people who are not Black recounting their experiences with law enforcement, good and bad. “Even professionals in law enforcement I spoke with said that was not professional conduct,” he said about Chauvin’s actions.

Accountability and transparency is what Solages is aiming for. He said the current Nassau County police reform plan lacks accountability because of the lack of having an inspector general.

“There is a purpose to having an inspector general, when something wrong happens, the IG can inspect this is where things went wrong,” he said, adding that he commends the county police for quickly apprehending the man who allegedly shot three people, killing one, at the Stop & Shop in Wet Hempstead on the same Tuesday as the verdict. “As in the case with Jan. 6 a lot of things went wrong,” Solages said, but every day in Nassau County we don’t know if things are going wrong.” The date refers to the day rioters breached the Capitol Building.

The first step is confronting the problem, Shivers said. “What was interesting was how the defense tried to paint a picture,” he said, “and tell the jury and the entire world pay no attention to what you see. I am reminded of Rodney King. There is an elephant in the room. We must acknowledge that there is a problem before we can talk about any solutions.” King was severely beaten by several Los Angeles police officers during his arrest in 1991.

Modernizing the police force and having what Solages called the “right mechanisms” in place for accountability and transparency begins with body cameras, he said. “Had it not been for that video that young lady recorded what happened with George Floyd, I don’t think we would have the same result,” he said, “that is the basic reality here.” Solages said they need to be required not voluntary based on a monetary bonus as proposed by the county.

Weinberger said that “these reckless murders” cannot become a political football there should not be opposing sides. “It is an undivided America that makes all of us safe.” She said. “It’s good for our  people and our police to know that one is not the enemy of the other. We must get back to a time when the community is glad to see the police, not terrified. The system needs changes. The time to start is now. Let George Floyd’s death be a reminder to everyone that justice and common decency are our first priority.”

Have an opinion on police shootings that involve people of color? Send a letter to jbessen@liherald.com.