WINCHESTER — The Winchester Area NAACP and local activists praised the guilty verdict against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, but they said the fight against racism and police brutality is far from over.
"While we shed tears of joy, we remember that this verdict does not bring back George Floyd, or the many Black lives lost to police brutality,” local NAACP President Michael Faison said in a statement from the organization to The Star. “The knee has not yet been removed from the necks of so many Black and Brown people. We in the Winchester Area NAACP will not rest until all in our community have the right to breathe.”
Chauvin was convicted Tuesday of murder and manslaughter in the May 25 killing of Floyd, a Black man, who Chauvin pinned to the ground with his knee for nearly nine minutes. Floyd’s death sparked nationwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality, with several protests occurring in the Winchester area last summer.
Faison said the criminal justice system has historically failed Black families in cases similar to Floyd’s, but Tuesday’s verdict was “a small, incremental step toward accountability.”
"We will continue to fight for an end to the horrors of police brutality and a criminal justice system that fails to properly hold law enforcement officials accountable," the statement continued. "We look forward to continued work and community engagement with our local law enforcement. We also look outside our local community to our elected officials. We urge the Virginia House and Senate to end qualified immunity, which protects police from civil rights claims, and call for the collection of detailed data on police encounters that will provide transparency and safety for our communities. Our country still has so much work to do to ensure that everyone’s lives are safe and respected, but today we focus on remembering the life and impact of George Floyd."
Terrance Wilson, a 30-year-old Winchester resident who created the “I Can’t Breathe” Walk on Winchester Facebook group, hopes the verdict is a sign of justice being delivered in similar cases.
“The moments that led us here are the moments where we saw injustice,” said Wilson. “And an injustice that has been alive and well for quite some time. Winchester showed how people can come together and rise against the injustices we see today and going into the future. With this jury verdict, hopefully there will be more justice to come."
I’m Just Me Movement co-founder Tina Stevens, who made history as the first Black woman elected to Stephens City Town Council, said that the jurors “were able to look through the lens of humanity.”
“Sadly, racism is alive and well in judicial systems, school systems, health care systems in Virginia and globally,” Stevens said. “Justice came through for George Floyd and his family. White supremacy continues to be a cancer for Black people and people of color.”
Shenandoah University graduate Danee Simmons, who organized a protest calling for criminal justice reform last summer, said she was “completely shocked” when the verdict was read, as she had convinced herself Chauvin was going to be acquitted. The 23-year-old said her shock was due to a long history of justice not being served for Black people in America.
“I was just sitting in my car crying my eyes out because I was so happy about how everything had turned out,” Simmons said. “It was completely shocking in a really good way."