J’cans in US hopeful guilty verdict in George Floyd murder case will herald change

NEW YORK, USA — Jamaicans here are hopeful that the United States justice system will begin to offer a more equitable treatment of minorities by white law enforcement officers, following last Tuesday’s guilty verdict of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

“We are not expecting a floodgate of changes,” Wayne Golding, a criminal defence attorney and key member of the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council, said after Chauvin was found guilty of murdering a black man, George Floyd.

“We will still need to teach our children and siblings how to interact with police and other law enforcement officers if they are stopped,” Golding said in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.

Chauvin, a white cop, was seen around the world by video pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck until he died, was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second -degree manslaughter.

The horrific scene sparked widespread demonstrations across the United States and worldwide.

Golding said that from a legal and personal perspective, he believed the verdict was the correct one, based on the evidence which was presented. Even then, Golding said he was, however, surprised “given the rarity with which police officers in the United States are convicted”.

Sadie Campbell, who heads the Jamaica Progressive League, said that while the verdict reflected the evidence that prosecutors laid out and so was the correct verdict, “we cannot now rest on our laurels”.

“It is hoped that this will be the beginning of an effort to finally take the right stand against systemic racism,” said Campbell, suggesting that “it is imperative that we do not let our guards down”.

Head of the Diaspora Task Force on crime, Dr Rupert Francis, described the verdict as a wise one, saying he hoped it would serve as an opportunity to heal the United States. He also urged minorities to be “compliant with police officers during any encounter”.

Dr Karren Dunkley, who leads the Global Diaspora Council for the North East United States, said she was satisfied that the verdict was a just one, given the evidence that was presented to the jury.

In a press statement, Dunkley said she hoped Chauvin’s sentence “will match the crime”, and she urged members of the Jamaican community and other minorities to ensure that sustained action was taken to prevent further murders of unarmed people.

Chiming in, Ronnie Hammick, president of the Ex-Correctional Officers Association of Jamaica, added: “It would have been difficult for the jury to return any other verdict given the evidence.”

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