KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The guilty verdicts in the murder trial of ex-police officer Derek Chauvin was read out loud in Minneapolis on April 20, 2021, and activists gathered outside the Kalamazoo County Courthouse following the decision.
Activists took part in a community conversation and reflected on Chauvin’s guilty verdict. They said the verdict was a relief.
“It’s a huge burden of off our shoulders and our hearts,” Corianna McDowell said.
“I hope it was all setting in for him like your actions caused this reaction. You should’ve never done what you done,” Quinton Bryant, an activist and community organizer, said.
Although demonstrators were able to take in the moment, they said there’s still more work.
“This is a huge starting point for civil rights movements, for African Americans, females and males, for policing because now we see this can’t be tolerated,” McDowell said.
“This is the start for us to tell our story of 400 years of trauma,” TC Custard, a community activist, said.
Activists also engaged with Kalamazoo police and officials, such as Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Chief Vernon Coakley and Kalamazoo Mayor David Anderson, talking about what it would take to rebuild trust.
“Today he was convicted of murder and now we want to keep applying pressure and hold cops accountable,” said Bryant. “We need to know that you’re here to protect and serve us not to kill and harass us.”
Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Deputy Chief Dave Boysen said Kalamazoo was feeling the effects of what happened in Minneapolis, but April 20, 2021, he was hopeful for healing.
“I would much rather work together sit down at the table, come up with solutions and listen, than kind of the things we saw last summer where there was not a lot of listening by either sides,” said Boysen
Activists said it was encouraging to feel the support of city officials like the mayor and city commissioners.
They say they hope it’s the beginning of a productive relationship.