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Chauvin verdict tip of the iceberg, say Manitobans, Minnesotans

Click to play video: 'Titi Tijani of the African Communities of Manitoba reacts to the murder conviction in the death of George Floyd' Titi Tijani of the African Communities of Manitoba reacts to the murder conviction in the death of George Floyd
The president of the African Communities of Manitoba talks about their reaction to the conviction of Derek Chauvin. – Apr 21, 2021

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin could be sent to prison for decades after he was convicted Tuesday of murder and manslaughter for the death of George Floyd.

In a May 2020 incident that sparked international protests against police brutality, Chauvin, who is white, knelt on the neck of the 46-year-old Black man for more than nine minutes after arresting Floyd for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill.

A bystander’s cellphone video of the incident — seen around the world — played a key role in Chauvin’s conviction. Cory Hepola, a host at WCCO Radio in Minneapolis, told 680 CJOB the whole series of events shows what the public can do if they see law enforcement doing something very wrong.

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“The cameras that we all hold on our phones are holding people accountable,” said Hepola.

“I think body cameras on police are a great thing. If you’re a police officer and you’re doing the right thing and acting in protocol, that’s going to be the thing that saves you — it’ll be the thing that says to everybody that you did everything in your power to do the right thing.

“That, to me, is where the change comes from.”

Read more: Ex-cop Derek Chauvin found guilty of murder, manslaughter in death of George Floyd

Hepola said the feeling in Minneapolis is that Chauvin’s conviction is the first step toward further changes to the justice system.

“I think people are upbeat, but they don’t want this to be the end. This is the floor — this is the start. Derek Chauvin’s only the second police officer ever convicted here in the state of Minnesota,” he said.

“I’m for police, but I’m also for police reform — where our community is built on safety for everybody… we have to admit and understand that this relationship is fractured.”

A Winnipeg defence/human rights lawyer said the events in the courtroom on Tuesday should only be the tip of the iceberg.

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Zilla Jones told 680 CJOB the events that have taken place in American cities — even over the course of the short three-week trial — show there’s still a long way to go.

Read more: Winnipeg’s anti-racism week looks to help heal divisions, end discrimination

“We know that the very day that verdict came out, we know a 15-year-old Black girl was shot by police in Columbus, Ohio,” said Jones. “We know that during the trial, Daunte Wright was killed by police in Minneapolis.

“Clearly there are many more of these trials that need to happen — this is not the only one.”

Jones said the prosecution did an excellent job bringing justice to Floyd’s family by relying on the video evidence and simply telling the jury to believe their eyes.

“All the bystanders saying why they were videoing and what they were doing — I think that was very emotional for the jury and really hit home.

“I think without that video, we would have heard a lot more arguments about how George Floyd was ‘out of control,’ or that he was violent… We would have heard that this is normal policing, and that police shouldn’t be held accountable for that.”

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Read more: ‘Find other ways of helping people’ — Winnipeg lawyer discusses defunding police

Click to play video: 'African Communities of Manitoba Inc. on calls for change' African Communities of Manitoba Inc. on calls for change
African Communities of Manitoba Inc. on calls for change – Jun 5, 2020

The president of the African Communities of Manitoba called Chauvin’s conviction a “big sigh of relief” and evidence that law enforcement officers aren’t above the law.

“It’s a small victory in the war against racism toward minorities and people of colour,” Titi Tijani told Global News.

“It’s historic, and I think this is the way it’s going to go from now on.”

Tijani said while this kind of accountability was a long time coming, there’s still a lot of work to be done — on both sides of the border.

“People have been crying about brutality against people of colour — BIPOC communities have been crying all these years, even in Canada.

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“This verdict sends a message that those who are supposed to protect us — with guns — are not above the law and they need to do right.

“I think Canadians, similar to Americans, should begin to look inward at the way that our law enforcement officers treat other citizens, people of colour especially, in this country.”

Read more: #Justice4BlackLives rally brings thousands to Manitoba legislature

In a statement following the verdict, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was one of many prominent voices saying the jury made the right call in the case.

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Trudeau echoed calls for work fighting systemic racism to continue — on both sides of the order.

“In the U.S. today, we saw accountability for the murder of George Floyd. But make no mistake, systemic racism and anti-Black racism still exist. And they exist in Canada, too. Our work must and will continue,” the PM said.

Click to play video: 'America reacts to the Derek Chauvin guilty verdict' America reacts to the Derek Chauvin guilty verdict
America reacts to the Derek Chauvin guilty verdict – Apr 21, 2021

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