Local Leaders Call For Peaceful Response To Chauvin Verdict

Apr 20, 2021

An image taken from a Black Lives Matter protest in Spokane last summer.
Credit Natalie Newcomb

Spokane city leaders are urging community members to keep their response to the verdict in the George Floyd trial peaceful, and respectful.

Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder for kneeling on the neck of a black man for nine minutes. That murder sparked a wave of protests across the nation, including several in Spokane last summer.

Mayor Nadine Woodward, Councilwoman Lori Kinnear and Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl released a joint statement after the verdict was announced, saying: “On this raw day, many will have an understandable emotional response.”

The statement also included a commitment to reform and more equitable outcomes for people of color in the criminal justice system.

“There are no winners even with today’s guilty verdict,” the statement read. “Mr. Floyd’s loved ones still suffer and our community still feels a sense of trauma that comes with loss. We hear that, recognize the anger, and are committed to working together on reforms that will improve equitable outcomes and enhance the safety of our community, particularly for our neighbors of color.”

Spokane City Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson also released a statement. Wilkerson is the second black women to serve on the Spokane City Council.

"As we go forward in our country and in Spokane, let us continue to fight for justice, protest peacefully, vote, volunteer, and do whatever we can to maintain the integrity of our legal system and law enforcement. There is still so much work to be done. While today was a major step in accountability, we still have a long journey to justice and being fully united citizens of America," she said.

Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs also released a statement. Beggs is a civil rights lawyer who has previously represented the family of Otto Zehm, who died at the hands of a police officer.

“Many have celebrated this outcome as justice, but so many other families have failed to find justice in our court system under similar circumstances.  People of color in our community and across the nation are still afraid that they will unjustly be assaulted or killed by law enforcement for no good reason.  I hope that this conviction after the full due process will be at least a small step towards broader community reconciliation.” 

Governor Jay Inslee also released a statement in response to the verdict, urging state legislative leaders to adopt police reforms and systemic changes.

“In Washington, we are reforming independent investigations into police use of force; clarifying the requirements for tactics; increasing oversight and accountability for law enforcement officer conduct; and establishing better standards for permissible uses of force,” Inslee said.

Sen. Maria Cantwell [D-Washington] also issued a statement:

“George Floyd and his family deserve justice. Today, a jury deliberated, and we took one step closer towards justice. Congress should now pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and ensure equal treatment under law.”

From Dr. Shari Clarke, Vice President for Diversity & Senior Diversity Officer at Eastern Washington University:

"Today my thoughts are with the family of George Floyd. These past few weeks we have relived the horrific murder of an innocent man. This hurt that never goes away continually resurfaces--it has been magnified numerous times since the Chauvin trial began.

Our hope is that there is a measure of closure for the family. That those seeking justice find that justice was served swiftly and with fairness. Moving forward let our nation begin to heal and the divisions among us begin to close. 

Let us come together to answer President May’s call to all members of our Eagle community: we must work collectively to eradicate any safe haven for the ideas of hate in our community. On campus let us continue to talk about these issues, to engage in difficult dialogues with an outcome of increased awareness regarding persons who are different from ourselves. Communication is the first step toward creating a respectful and healthy community.

We are a strong and resilient Eagle community. Know that you are seen, heard, and more importantly, welcome and loved here. Should you need support, please seek out any of our campus resources below. We are here for you."


Reporter's Note: This story has been updated to include comments from Sen. Cantwell and Eastern Washington University.