Rowan University Community Reacts to the Conviction of Derek Chauvin

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Rowan Students marching on Oct. 23, for the “Say Her Name” march in honor of Breonna Taylor. Today, Rowan University reflects on the ruling of the Derek Chauvin murder trial.- Photo via Multimedia Editor / Alex Rossen

The three-week-long trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was one that made the world stand up, pause, and listen with nervous anticipation. Time itself seemed to stand still as people all over the world waited to see if there would be justice for the Floyd family. 

On April 20, the jury delivered its verdict, finding Derek Chauvin guilty of all three counts: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. While the exact sentence has yet to be announced, it could be as long as several decades. 

Following the conclusion of the trial, Ben Crump, attorney for the Floyd family, announced in a press conference: “This is a victory for those who champion humanity over inhumanity. Those who champion justice over injustice.” Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s younger brother, said with relief, “Today, we are able to breathe again.” 

The weight of this day was also felt profoundly by the Rowan community. Emotions were running high as students grappled with the gravity of the last three weeks – and indeed the last year.

Junior Sumayyah Hayes was extremely happy upon hearing the verdict. “Although this took over a year,” she said, “it shows that there is hope. Hopefully, this could be the stepping stone to bringing unlawful cops to justice.”

“Once all three counts were read aloud by the judge, I couldn’t help but weep,” sophomore history major Alexis Taylor said. “It was a profound moment of relief. After seeing George Zimmerman walk free for murdering Trayvon Martin, I did not want to relive that type of pain of seeing that again.”

Junior biological science major Rachael Wilson reported feeling “shocked, overwhelmed, relieved [and] joyful, but also sad that this case even had to happen.”

College Democrats at Rowan President Michael Giuliani said, “This is a victory not only for Floyd’s friends and family but for all those who fought for his murderer to be held accountable this past year. However, justice is the exception, not the rule, for black victims of police brutality…Justice cannot be served until accountability is the norm and every American can walk the streets without fear of discrimination or violence. Congress must now do its part to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.”

The College Republicans at Rowan said in a statement to The Whit that they “support the full legal process and understand the black communities’ pain on this issue.”  

“However,” they continued, “that does not make the actions of Maxine Waters and others in the media anything less than jury intimidation. They used threats and intimidation to attack not only our due process of law but also to endanger our cities and people through violent riots. These actions are shameful, and though we support the jury’s verdict, we do not support the process to reach it.”

For the past year, the George Floyd case was one of many that struck at the heart of crises in the United States in police brutality and systemic racism. For many Rowan students, this is a time to reflect on this step forward and also all the work that remains to be done.

“There is still an incredibly large amount of work to be done,” senior international studies major Chloe Yanush said. “I don’t think a guilty verdict for such an obvious and atrocious crime that was followed by such public outrage is indicative of the kind of momentum that would result in the necessary reform.”

Is this justice? “It depends on how you define justice,” senior Sean French, said. “Justice for those wronged by a system for generations? No. One case alone does not mean justice for all.”

Rowan Progressives President Ryan Clare wrote, “This guilty verdict cannot be satisfactory for us to declare that ‘the system is now working as it should,’ like it was just malfunctioning and needed to be realigned. Statements like this ignore what our system was intended to do, what it was designed for, and who and what it was always meant to protect.”

Writing arts and education major, and Women of Color Alliance Vice President, Alayna Harrison noted, “This is just the start. I pray this sets a standard for police when they think they can get away with police brutality. I pray this is not the first time we get public justice. So many people have been failed in the past.”

Sophomore radio, television, and film major Laura Carter wrote, “For years I’ve taken on the emotional stress of being a black woman. On one side, you want to stand tall, protest and celebrate your culture, but when I watched an 8-minute video of a man being murdered, and I watched him call out for his mom like I used to do when I was a child, something inside me broke.” 

“Being black is beautiful,” Carter emphasized, “but it’s also a battle. I want people to know, even when your black friend exudes strength, to check on them and never stop. Because no matter how strong they may seem, it gets to us.”

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