NEWARK, NJ – Area officials and community leaders responded to the Tuesday murder conviction of former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd.
“On behalf of all of Newark and our residents, we applaud the jury for its decision in the Derek Chauvin case and congratulate Minnesota’s prosecutors for their work in bringing it about,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said. “It sends a clear message that people who use the cover of the law to commit murder and violate people’s fundamental rights will be met with justice. Today, Black Lives Mattered, which means all of our humanity matters.”
When a video of the former Minnesota police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck leading to his death went viral, protests and rallies erupted nationwide in the following weeks, including Newark.
In May 2020, thousands of demonstrators marched through downtown Newark, part of a nationwide show of resistance against police brutality, in response to the killing of Floyd.
Organizers used the display of solidarity with Minneapolis as an opportunity to call attention to Newark's own struggle for officer accountability, namely the city's ongoing fight for an independent civilian oversight board.
“The death of George Floyd was a lynching, and we want those police who were responsible to go to jail,” Lawrence Hamm, chairman of People’s Organization for Progress, said in May. “We want our people in Minneapolis to know, we hear you in Newark, New Jersey.”
As the trial’s verdict weighed a heavy significance in urban communities like Newark, other officials expressed their viewpoints on the decision.
“Justice was delivered in the court today, but true justice would mean that #GeorgeFloyd would be alive,” Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz (D - Essex) said in a Facebook post.” Work still needs to be done to ensure no family experiences this again. Systems need to be fixed and policies need to be steeped in truth and equity.”
“Justice has been served in Derek Chauvin’s trial for the murder of George Floyd,” Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo said. “The three guilty verdicts cannot undo the injustice that was done a year ago, but it represents a positive change in our criminal justice system. It is time for our country to continue to heal, learn to respect and understand our differences, and grow stronger from them.”
Alongside political officials, community leaders and social justice advocates in Newark responded to the verdict as well.
"The African American community is relieved to witness the conviction of a police officer who murdered a black man. The Newark NAACP will continue to advocate for true police reform,” Newark NAACP President Deborah Smith Gregory said. “While this conviction is historic, it is not the cure-all. We must still take a stand against police brutality whenever and wherever it occurs. We will push for subpoena power for the Newark Civilian Complaint Review Board that holds police officers accountable. Relief is a good breather but we still have a long road ahead of us.”
Newark-based social justice advocacy group, Project Ready, reacted to the trial, hopeful that the decision prompts more accountability and justice for authorities.
“While we’re grateful to see a small measure of justice served today, we must recognize that the guilty verdict of a murder recorded on video in broad daylight was not inevitable - it was only possible because of many years of organizing anchored in social justice,” Project Ready CEO Shennell McCloud said. “Like so many Americans, particularly Black Americans, I had my doubts about how today’s verdict would go. But all of us at Project Ready are glad to see this jury affirm what we all know to be true, that Black lives do matter, and to see George Floyd’s family get some measure of justice.”