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Valley Streamers react to Chauvin verdict

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On April 20, ex Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges in the murder of George Floyd. Floyd’s murder shook the nation, touching off the largest civil rights demonstrations the country had seen in decades. The historic trial, which began on March 29 lasted nearly four weeks

For many Valley Stream residents they said the weeks spent waiting for the verdict to be revealed were painstakingly long, and many waited in anxiety for the result.

“I was happy that he was charged on all three counts and it was great for me emotionally to see that there was accountability,” Qumyka Howell, 43, said. “I do not think that this verdict will stop the killing of innocent Black and brown people because there needs to be more nationwide accountability for police officers.”

Although Howell, who is Black, said she has had many positive experiences with the police in her lifetime, she said she also has had an experience where she said police officers had treated her unfairly. In 2017, she was driving with her two children in the back seat when suddenly a police officer pulled them over. When she handed over her license, the officer returned to his vehicle.

Suddenly, Howell recounted, four other police cars pulled and surrounded her vehicle. Having no idea what was happening, Howell said, she immediately felt fearful and she told her two sons to put their hands up on the back of the two front seats in front of them so police would see their hands, and told them to be as still and quiet as they could.

After what seemed like hours, Howell said, the officer who had taken her license returned to issue a traffic violation ticket. 

“I’ll never forget the intense fear and terror in the eyes of my two young Black sons,” Howell said. “… I know this was not the normal process of how cops stop people on the road and whether it was racism or not, it was just wrong.”

Despite being pleased with the Chauvin verdict, other Valley Stream residents of color said they did not anticipate the verdict would not stop further instances of police brutality against Black and brown people.

Valley Streamer Vanessa Reyes,18, who will attend Hunter College in the fall, said that her father used to work for the Nassau County Police Department. However, after facing racist discrimination from his coworkers, he quit.

“My father is Afro-Latino, and his coworkers judged him based on his skin color and one day he said he couldn’t deal with it anymore,” Reyes said, declining to go into further detail. “… This kind of systemic racism has become normalized because it happens so often, which is wrong. Honestly, it’s sickening that people don’t see that this is a problem in our country.” 

Jesse Ulysse, 33, who is also Black said that when he was 19, a police officer yelled at him and his friends when they were having a snowball fight. The police received a call from someone who reported snowballs being thrown at houses and people. Ulysse said he and his friends had only been throwing the snow at each other. After approaching Ulysse and his friends, the officer, he recalled, suddenly realized that he had approached the wrong group of teenagers.

“The police officer scared us because he didn’t even ask us what we were doing, but he just came over to us and yelled, ‘are you fuc*ing kidding me,’ but he didn’t realize he had the wrong group of kids because there were other kids throwing them at people and houses,” he said. “I’m happy that George Floyd got some justice, but there are still many issues that need to be addressed.”