The world was watching with bated breath as Judge Peter Cahill read the verdict during the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd last May by kneeling on his neck for 9 minutes.
Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on April 20. He will be sentenced June 16.
Around the country, activists and protesters collectively sighed and celebrated accountability, while knowing the real work toward justice has just begun.
Former police officer Larnell Farmer, a West Valley NAACP member, said the verdict was astounding because it took the jury only 11 hours to reach a decision.
“I was shocked that the verdict came back as quickly as it did and that he was found guilty,” Farmer said. “But, I don’t think it’s going to really change anything.”
Farmer said this isn’t a new narrative, referring to the cases of Mohamed Noor, a Black police officer who fatally shot 33-year-old Justine Damond in 2017. Noor was convicted of third-degree manslaughter and murder but was acquitted on the charge of intentional second-degree murder.
Farmer said Chauvin had the backing and support of the police and Noor did not. It was the same narrative, though, that “a large Black man was out of control.”
“I think the problem is in the system and the police system when it comes to qualified immunity,” Farmer said. “Until we start addressing that until police officers see Black and brown people as human beings, that’s when I think things will actually change.”
Farmer said it’s troubling to wake up every morning to see another police shooting incident occurred. He added the view on police shootings would be different if white people were killed by Black and brown officers.
“I think people’s happiness around this verdict was that some form of justice came our way as Black people,” Farmer said. “When the verdict came, I was happy that Chauvin was found guilty, but then my next thought was, we still have a lot of work to do.”
The West Valley NAACP is a new branch of local NAACP offices, opening its doors two years ago. Former state Rep. Dr. Gerae Peten began organizing the West Valley chapter in April 2019 after she saw a lack of representation for people of color in the area.
“The nexus of several events in the West Valley made it apparent that people of color needed advocates, defenders and others who could relate and empathize with their plight in our racist, sexist and inequitable communities,” Peten said in a statement in 2019.
“Racial profiling, job discrimination, educational malpractice, exorbitant jail sentences, mass incarceration and a multitude of other barriers to success that crush our aspirations for the American Dream must be eradicated.”
Farmer said the chapter always looks for new members and allies who can help spread the word about the organization’s social justice work and activism.
“We’re looking for people who can write. We’re looking for allies,” he said. “There’s always strength in numbers, and we’re looking to align ourselves with others outside of the NAACP because there are a lot of activists and organizations here in the Valley.”
Farmer said the West Valley chapter is one of the busier branches in the Valley. It wants to be more proactive than reactionary when it comes to issues of social justice in the area.
“We would like to see somebody from our organization at every meeting, like school board meetings and council meetings,” Farmer said. “We’re trying to get our name out there so we can fight that good fight.”