GREENSBORO, N.C. — As people across the country take to the streets to celebrate the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd, some question if his conviction does enough to move the needle of justice forward.
While Tuesday’s verdict felt like an exhale for people in Black and brown communities, some say there is still more work to be done, and Chauvin being found guilty on all three counts was a baby step in the right direction but a step nonetheless.
“When they said guilty, it was a sigh of relief. We’re not crazy. Everyone saw it, and they said, ‘no more,’” said Brittney Mercer, who was involved in summer protests sparked by the killing of Floyd.
While it was a moment of relief and true impact, Mercer said Chauvin’s guilty verdict on all charges was a small step in the right direction.
She said it doesn’t do enough to restore faith in the legal system for communities of color.
“I think at the core of things, the pressure you put on the system holds it accountable. And without the pressure on the system, they think everything is good until you tell them it’s not,” Mercer said.
Seeing Floyd taking his last breath in the infamous video made her and her friends want to march for change.
“When you’re able to see this again in real time, not for eight minutes–for nine minutes, an execution on camera. It’s undeniable,” Mercer said.
But does a guilty verdict for a former officer charged, mean real change is happening in the legal system?
“I don’t think this case affects immediate police policy,” said Steven Friedland, former prosecutor and Elon University law professor. “I think what we have going forward is an opportunity to evaluate and strengthen the relationships between police and the community which i think is essential,” he said.
Friedland admits this case may not have ended the way it did without the rare yet critical piece of evidence: the video.
He said another key factor was the diversity in the pool of jurors.
“A good jury means a cross section of our community that really comes from a jury of one’s peers. And that is really important to creating confidence in the system, and it’s important for reaching fair results,” Friedland said.
For people like Elizabeth Boydston, who have watched history repeat itself, Tuesday’s ruling does do something to move the needle of change forward.
“I was in Washington D.C when Martin Luther King did his civil rights speech. I was only 10 years old then,” she said. “I’ve seen change. I’ve seen change in what we have gone through. It’s worth the fight.”
Another thing that people said they worry about is sentencing for Chauvin as well as the upcoming trial for the other three officers charged in Floyd’s killing. They question whether justice will be served then too.
That trial will be in June.