OGDEN — Reaction was swift and strong to the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial from Weber County reps most involved in advocating for the African-American community.
Relief to the jury’s decision stood out among the reactions. “I feel like I can breathe,” said Jacarri Kelley, a leader in Northern Utah Black Lives Matter. “Finally, I’m able to breathe just a little.”
Others lauded the U.S. judicial system, saying it needs to be trusted. “You have to trust our judicial system,” said Brandon Roundy, chief deputy in the Weber County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s not perfect, but it’s the best in the world.”
A jury on Tuesday found Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, guilty of three charges, including second-degree murder, in the killing of George Floyd while arresting him on May 25 last year. The incident sparked protesting across the nation and calls for police reform, including here in Ogden. Here’s how some involved in civil rights efforts in Weber County, Utah leaders and others reacted to Tuesday’s verdict:
Kelley: She thought Chauvin would be found guilty and said Tuesday’s verdict should stand as a reminder to heed the calls of groups like Black Lives Matter and others.
“It should be a clear-cut warning to all of the police officers and policy makers that don’t take us seriously. ... They can’t keep ignoring us because the world is watching now. The world has been watching for the last year,” she said.
She didn’t plan to take part in any public demonstrating, worried about backlash from those who may be critical of the verdict. Kelley helped organize some of the local demonstrations last summer in response to the Floyd killing.
U.S. Rep. Blake Moore: “I believe in America’s judicial system, and I am grateful justice has been served in a fair trial. I sincerely hope that we can use this critical moment to better listen and build respectful dialogue as we seek unity across our nation,” Moore, a Republican, said in a statement. He’s Utah’s 1st District representative.
Malik Dayo: He said he was “ecstatic” over the verdict, but had feared Chauvin would be found innocent. Dayo also helped organize protests against Floyd’s killing and for police reform last summer in Ogden.
“I’m crying actually. You know what? To me it’s unbelievable,” Dayo said. “I hope it sends a message that police need to be held accountable for their actions when they act outside the law. They need to see this and realize it’s no longer going to be like it was before.”
The verdict doesn’t mean the fight for civil rights gets any easier, he said, though it should serve as inspiration. “I think it’s always going to be a long journey. This is definitely a spring forward in the right direction. It’s a leap forward and I think it gives all activists hope for change,” he said. He didn’t plan to take part in any protesting, also worried about backlash from counterprotesters.
U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney: “Our courts and judges are responsible for administering justice without fear or favor, and we wisely entrust the final verdict to a jury of one’s peers,” Romney said in a written statement following the verdict. “As our country moves forward, we must seek bonds of unity and shun the chords of division among us. We are all children of the same God, and we must treat each other as so.”
U.S. Rep. Burgess Owens: “Today, justice was served in the senseless killing of George Floyd. I am praying for peace and healing in Minnesota and across the nation as we the people unite to build bridges for positive change,” Owens, a Republican, said in a tweet. He’s Utah’s 4th District representative.
Adrienne Andrews: Waiting for the verdict in the case, Andrews felt like her heart was in her throat. After hearing the verdict, she felt it beating strongly in her chest.
Now, she hopes the jury’s decision causes the broader public “to come together and have a national discussion on policing and racism in this country.” Though offering up her views as hers alone, she serves as the chief diversity officer for Weber State University and has hosted several public meetings in Weber County on policing and race.
She said she actually feels comfortable with law enforcement in Northern Utah, noting that “as a Black person, that is not always the common feeling.” Ogden Police Chief Eric Young and his predecessors, she went on, “are working incredibly hard to make a difference.”
That, though, doesn’t mean there aren’t systems of racism or bias-based violence that need to be addressed. On the contrary, there’s plenty to do, she said, noting a virtual conversation she helped organize on police use of force and accountability, coincidental to the Chauvin verdict. It’s an Ogden Diversity Commission-sponsored event and it’s set for Thursday starting at 5:30 p.m. Featured participants will be Young, Weber County Sheriff Ryan Arbon and Roy Police Chief Carl Merino.
U.S. Rep. John Curtis: It’s clear to him, Curtis said in a tweet ahead of the verdict, “that crucial conversations that started with George Floyd’s death have only just begun and regardless of the outcome of the trial, there’s work to do ahead.” He’s Utah’s 3rd District U.S. Representative and a Republican.
Betty Sawyer: Sawyer, head of the Ogden branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the Floyd killing and other events in the past year have caused plenty of grieving and “a collective pain.”
“So hearing the verdict today caused me to be hopeful,” she said. Keeping up the pressure for police reform and holding officers accountable for what they do is “extremely important.”
Indeed, like many others, she said Tuesday’s court verdict doesn’t end the struggles for people of color. Rather, “it’s just one more step along a long road in mitigating the injuries and trauma that have been suffered by Blacks in all our communities,” she said.
Roundy of the Weber County Sheriff’s Office wasn’t aware of any protests in Weber County called in response to the verdict. But if anyone does feel called to act, peacefully, that’s their right. “We do support exercising constitutional rights and hope they do it peacefully if they choose to do so,” Roundy said.