Local reaction to Derek Chauvin verdict

Contra Costa Community College members share their thoughts on the outcome of the case.


331 days – that was the length of time between George Floyd’s untimely death and Derek Chauvin’s trial verdict. For many, Chauvin being charged on three accounts of murder on April 20 marks a pivotal moment in social justice and police reform.

The event that took place a year ago largely influenced the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Video footage taken by 17-year-old Darnella Frazier of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes became international news, sparking conversation everywhere. The words “I can’t breathe” uttered by Floyd became a haunting cry in the face of police brutality.

For Jamila Stewart, the UMOJA Scholars coordinator and Black Student Union adviser, the verdict didn’t make her “happy or celebratory, just a little less tense for the day.”

“This was a big case, but it isn’t justice and it doesn’t change the systemic issues,” she said. “Some people are saying that this is an exercise in accountability. Perhaps it is, but we need change on the front end, not on the back end.”

The trial began on March 20 and lasted a total of three weeks with a wide array of testimony from medical experts to law enforcement personnel. After two days of deliberation, the jury found Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, second-degree manslaugter and third-degree murder. With these convictions, Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison.

Since the events leading up to the trial, affecting so many across the nation, Contra Costa Community College District Chancellor Bryan Reece stressed the importance of offering support to peers and community members.

“This is an emotional time for all of us, as we remember and relive the horror of George Floyd’s murder. As we grieve for the Floyd family and communities affected by this trauma, we must extend care to one another and to our students,” said Reece in a district-wide statement following the verdict.

LMC students and staff acknowledged the impact of the trial and the issues around social justice it has highlighted.

 “I’m happy that the verdict came out how it did. It’s long overdue someone actually got punished for one of these murders,” said LMC sophomore Julian Fleming, who added that too many victims of police brutality have been overlooked in the past decade. While he is relieved to see justice for Floyd, he said he is skeptical the verdict will lead to reform in the police system. 

 “I don’t think this will have much of an impact at all, seeing as hundreds have met their ends at the hands of police, and yet only this one has been actually held accountable for his actions,” he said. 

Fleming explained his own personal fears about being around police officers and said he wishes they would not go out of their way to target young people of color.

 “We can’t even go on walks or just park cars somewhere to hang out without getting passed by a few police cars or them stopping us,” he said.

LMC student Jordan Misquez said that although he believes “it was a pretty clear and easy decision made by the jury,” he is relieved by the verdict.

 “My reaction was basically a sigh of relief for two reasons,” he said. “One because justice was reached for George Floyd, which was a step in the right direction for not only the U.S., but the entire world. And second because if the verdict was different with no charges, then I think it’s safe to say the world wouldn’t have accepted that and there would have been another uproar of chaos in violence all in search for justice.” 

LMC political science professor Milton Clarke sees the verdict as a small step toward justice.

“Although I am personally satisfied that justice has prevailed, it is difficult for me to be particularly happy or celebratory,” he said. ‘Chauvin’s conviction is not going to bring George Floyd’s life back and that conviction is an avid reminder of the senselessness and utterly avoidable circumstances of the case beginning with Floyd’s initial confrontation with the Minneapolis police officers.”

Clarke added that it has been rewarding to witness activism from a multiethnic younger generation and said he hopes that energy will continue to be redirected to the broader systemic issues within society.

With regard to policing, Clarke said he sees a positive future as many police departments are led by intelligent, open minded individuals who seek progress. 

He does, however, point out, “We know that many of the ‘insurrectionists’ that stormed the capital were current or former police officers and generally members of law enforcement tend to take the conservative view, which on its merits is not necessarily a bad thing, except that this political view tends to support the status quo of police policy rather than advocate for reform.” 

But LMC Police Lt. Ryan Huddleston said he hopes that the trial verdict helps community members trust that people like Chauvin will be held accountable in the eyes of the justice system.

 “We hope the communities and law enforcement agencies can continue to work together,” said Huddleston, “We rely on our community.”

Since the death of George Floyd, LMC and other California community colleges have been engaging their communities in social justice dialogues and working to create safe spaces for students. At a recent teleconference with student media, California Community College State Chancellor Eloy Oakley said that each college is taking steps to make all students feel welcome.

  “Over the past year, our system has made extraordinary strides to advance anti-racist practices and promote equity for students of color. This work requires the authentic partnership and support of state and federal leaders, administrators, students, faculty and staff, and it will be guided by justice, peace and respect,” he said.

Oakley encourages staff and students to welcome continuing conversations around tough topics, such as police brutality, to help give them the moral clarity they deserve. He noted there is more to be done, and the sentencing of Chauvin is only the beginning of the conversation around police reform. 

 “Our work is not finished,” he said. “History will be our judge.”

And though the verdict may reflect a step forward in the justice system, the impact of the trial on future proceedings regarding police brutality remains unknown.

“It’s not enough to have representation or empty performative gestures of solidarity and justice,” said Stewart, “Right now people are talking, but time will tell if this is the start of something transformational, or if it’s just a moment in time.”