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Anne Arundel, Annapolis leaders react to Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict in George Floyd murder

Updated: May 29, 2021

Jacqueline Boone Allsup, president of the NAACP of Anne Arundel County, said that when a Minnesota jury went into deliberation for George Floyd’s murder, she was thinking about Rodney King, beaten in 1991 by Los Angeles police officers later acquitted in the attack.

“We all saw that across America as well, but the verdict that came out for Rodney King, we all know, was not the verdict that should have come out.”

After deliberating for about 24 hours, the Minnesota jury returned guilty verdicts Tuesday for all three charges against former police officer Derek Chauvin. Many Anne Arundel civil rights leaders marked it as a victory. Chauvin faced second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He has no bail and will be sentenced in eight weeks.

Over two weeks, prosecutors argued that when Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, his actions amounted to murder. Chauvin’s defense attempted to attribute Floyd’s death to health complications and drug use.

Floyd’s death was recorded and showed Floyd, a Black man, under Chauvin’s knee for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. It ignited protests against police brutality and renewed calls for racial justice across the country, including in Anne Arundel County.

At a gathering following the verdict, Carl Snowden, convener of the Caucus of African American Leaders, said Floyd’s death marked a change in America. “When 9/11 happened, it changed America. Nine-twenty-nine: nine minutes and 29 seconds, has too changed America.”

Kristine Saja, Severna Park resident, said it was important for her to attend the gathering along with about 30 people because she is hopeful this verdict is a sign of change is to come.

Saja wants to see officers held accountable and for people to understand Black people have been targeted and brutalized.

“Having all of these different people here sends a message that people of Annapolis care,” she said.

Annapolis was the site of several protests following Floyd’s death, joined by Mayor Gavin Buckley and members of his administration, including police, taking part. Buckley released a statement Tuesday that said the Minnesota jury “got it right.”

“With Chauvin’s knee on George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds, we all saw what happened, and the jury confirmed it,” he said. “The verdicts won’t bring back George Floyd, but they show that justice was served.”

In a tweet, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said the verdict is a culmination of the grieving process and described it as accountability in action.

“As I was last year in standing with our community & public safety leaders, I remain committed today to building trust between the community and the police,” he said.

When Chauvin was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs Tuesday, Del. Shaneka Henson, D-Annapolis, said in a phone interview, she saw the same expression on his face that he had while kneeling on top of Floyd: “Emotionless.”

“He didn’t seem to have any remorse or emotion,” she said.

Anytime a profession can harm someone while showing little feeling, Henson said, “we need to stop and understand there is a need to reform.”

“I’m glad there was justice here. In this case, we got to see ourselves what happened, so there was little left to imagination.”

The Rev. Marguerite Morris, who founded Community Actively Seeking Transparency to question police actions, said the verdict was a victory. She has challenged the Anne Arundel County police determination that her daughter’s death was a suicide, claiming that they ignored signs it was a possible homicide because she was Black.

“This sends a message that they will be held accountable,” she said. “Justice may take time, but we will have justice.”

Bishop Antonio Palmer, leader of the United Black Clergy of Anne Arundel County, mentioned the 1,000 Men March this summer, Morris’ fight to overturn her daughter’s cause of death verdict and other local activism for “the right cause.”

“When we continue to unify and put pressure on America. We will be able to have another check issued to us, and that check will be a good check for us to be able to cash in. And today was a foretaste of what we can cash in,” Palmer said.

Charles James, a member of the Caucus of African American Leaders, said the Chauvin verdict marks an important time because it speaks to how the nation feels about certain things.

“We have much work to do, and there’s always more work to do,” he said. “We need to have a conversation to let people know nationally about the injustice going on in this country.”

A host of Minneapolis officers have condemned Chauvin’s use of force as untrained and not within the department’s ethics.

James believes this case will play a part in a lawsuit following a 2019 traffic stop where a detective kneeled on a Black man in Gambrills.

Daniel Jarrells has sued Detective Daniel Reynolds and two other Anne Arundel County officers. An internal investigation recommended Reynolds be fired, but he has appealed the finding. A police trial board was postponed after Pittman made comments on social medial connecting the hearing with Chauvin’s trial. Reynolds has not been charged with a crime.

“Here in Anne Arundel and Annapolis, we too must be concerned that justice will take place, and that is what this demonstration is for,” Snowden said. “We are also celebrating the guilty verdict but also raising the question of when will the trial of Reynolds will take place?”

Snowden said the death of George Floyd has already affected things nationwide, influencing the Maryland General Assembly to pass police reform bills.

“The marching, the demonstrations that took place last year in the county that said ‘Black lives matter’ it will show people that participated in the process and at the polls made a fundamental difference in the victory that took place,” Snowden said.

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