Local reactions ranged from relief to rage on Tuesday, April 20, as a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd last year.
Floyd's death, which was caused by Chauvin kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes, sparked outrage and protests around the world when video emerged of the murder in 2020. In the end, the jury found Chauvin guilty of unintentional second-degree murder, third degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Willie Poinsette, co-founder of Lake Oswego's Respond to Racism group, was "ecstatic" when she heard the verdict, though with that happiness came a reminder of the work that's yet to come.
"I'm happy that people, the jury, really saw what happened and that the young lady who videotaped was brave enough to stand there," Poinsette said. "I'm happy that people saw what happened last year and it was a wake-up call to ... the United States and the world about what's going on here with racism.
"And we have talked about Black Lives Matter, we talked about police murdering Black people — particularly our Black males — and white folks didn't believe us. White folks didn't believe it until it was smack dab in front of them on the screen … White folks then became our allies in this struggle."
Poinsette said she takes pride in the strong Black community members who didn't give up and were adamant about change. She added the verdict is the beginning of realizing a new way of looking at policing across the country.
"People can smile, but today we have to go to work," Poinsette said.
Lake Oswego Mayor Joe Buck said the verdict was an example in which the criminal justice system worked.
"But this cannot continue to be the rare exception," Buck said in an email to the Review. "As a city we're deeply committed to ensuring everyone in LO is safe and protected as they live their daily lives. The impact of events nationwide is felt locally, so as mayor I am thrilled to see accountability that enforces what we're striving to accomplish at home."
On Wednesday afternoon, the Lake Oswego Police Department tweeted a statement on behalf of police chiefs in Clackamas County.
"Yesterday's verdict reflects a justice system which held a law enforcement officer accountable for their actions," the statement read. "The many good men and women who wear their badges with honor, integrity and compassion stand with our communities, with an ache in our hearts and a deep understanding that words aren't enough. The Police Chiefs of Clackamas County are committed to strengthening relationships with the communities we serve through listening, training, transparency and accountability."
Marcus Mundy, executive director of the Oregon-based Coalition of Communities of Color, responded quickly to the verdicts Tuesday. "Justice is hard to come by in America. The members of the Coalition of Communities of Color know that all too well," he told Pamplin Media Group. "Today's decision in Minnesota matters, truly, but it is not nearly enough, and it is not even true justice because true justice would not have had a man die for a purported counterfeit $20 bill. That is not ingratitude for today's righteous outcome, but a doleful lament about our fear for what is to come. We are heartened that a reprehensible monster has been adjudged by a jury of his peers unfit to walk among us any longer, but we await the inevitable backlash of grievance that will emerge when those in power realize that a single verdict in a single case is not enough to satisfy over 400 years of mistreatment and woe for African American men, and other folks of color, in America."'
Lake Oswego City Councilor Massene Mboup said that for his mental health, he didn't watch the trial, though he was relieved when he heard the guilty verdict.
Finally, Mboup said, this trial showed that people cannot kill other people and get away with it just because they're wearing a uniform.
"There shouldn't be a problem sentencing a police officer when they kill somebody," Mboup said.
Mboup added that he hoped the guilty verdict would help unite the country. He said the mentality should shift from "us versus them" and everyone should be proud that a police officer was held accountable for his actions.
"We should go beyond the division," he said. "There's no Black America or white America."
Mboup acknowledged that the verdict would not bring Floyd back, but it's a step toward starting to figure out how to dismantle systemic racism.
Other officials weigh in
Gov. Kate Brown also issued a statement.
"George Floyd's life mattered. His death, at the hands of Derek Chauvin, shook our nation to its core. My thoughts are with his family today," she wrote. "Thousands of people last year, including here in Oregon, took to the streets to raise their voices in a clarion call for racial justice and police reform. A call for an America where Black Lives Matter.
"Today's verdict is one step toward that goal. But it is only a single step toward police accountability. It is also a reminder of how much work we have left to do. We will dismantle the structures of racism and inequality in this country just as they were built, brick by brick.
"As a nation, we grieve for the life of George Floyd. And we will honor his memory by continuing to do the hard work to increase police accountability in this country. As we have seen in the last year, that process is not easy and change will not come overnight," Brown wrote.
State Rep. Christine Drazan, leader of the House Republican Caucus, summed it up within minutes of the verdict. "Guilty. Justice served," she tweeted.
A rookie Democratic House member chimed in as well. "The countless hours of protests, gatherings, cheers, yells, & demanding of justice have been heard," Rep. Ricki Ruiz of Gresham tweeted. "Say his name, George Floyd! The work must continue. Your battles are our battles. As a brown Latino I say loudly! #BlackLivesMatter."
"The verdict in the murder of George Floyd is one step in a much larger journey on the long arc toward justice," said Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan. "There's so much work left to do to address systemic racism and policing in this country. My thoughts are with George Floyd's family and community."
"George Floyd was a father; a grandfather; a friend to others; a human being," wrote Val Hoyle, Oregon Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries. "His life mattered. Today I am thinking about George, his family and all who loved him. Our work must continue to end systemic racism and injustice - in Oregon and across our country."
"Today was an important step in an ongoing struggle for racial justice," U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer wrote.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.