Essex Top Photos: BLM vigil

People take to a knee and lay prone on the ground with their hands behind their back during a vigil against racism at the Five Corners in June.

On Tuesday, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the killing of George Floyd in May 2020. The jury’s decision drew reaction from leaders at all levels.

Essex Police Department statement

"The long awaited verdict in the Derrick Chauvin trial has been issued and justice will be served. Today, we, as most Americans, hope that healing may now begin and we may come together to attain a common goal. The Essex Police Department has spent the last year in self-reflection, learning new concepts, working with our community, and ensuring public safety for all. We have attended trainings, issued new equipment and enacted policies and procedures that will allow us to work with forethought, accountability, and a new perspective.

"While we have always acted as professionals, we are daily finding new ways to engage the community while serving with courage, integrity and respect. We are ready to continue this work and care for the community that we love."

Village of Essex Junction President Andrew Brown

"A murderer has been convicted of murder which is justice served, in this one instance. George Floyd’s murder acted as a catalyst for a long overdue national conversation on racial justice, racial inequalities, systemic racism and their intersection with the criminal justice system. I am hopeful this conviction will be a catalyst for turning this from a conversation into national action. I know the Essex Police Department has been going down this path and I look forward to continuing these efforts to ensure Essex Junction is a welcoming community for all."

Town of Essex Selectboard Vice Chair Pat Murray, member of Essex's Safety, Policing and Racial Justice Task Force

"We in the municipality of Essex were grateful to see accountability in the guilty verdict of former police officer Derek Chauvin earlier this week. As his death rocked the country last summer, all of us in positions of power and responsibility needed to reckon with the role we could play in avoiding any such tragedy from occurring again while recognizing that the systemic racism inherent in our country today is not something to be confronted with simple words of regret and sorrow. The formation of a racial justice task force made up of members of the police, municipal leaders and citizens was the first step of a journey that Essex remains committed to for the long term. This journey will hopefully make the whole of the community aware of the struggles our BIPOC neighbors face on a day to day basis while we support them and do better at encouraging inclusion in our town.

"Even with Derek Chauvin's conviction providing some relief, it cannot be a celebration. This is a difficult moment, coming within days of even more high profile instances of Black lives being taken across the country. It can be too easy to turn away from the hard questions that are uncomfortable to confront, let alone answer. But it is crucial and important work, as we recognize that we live on land taken from Native Americans and in a country that was built on the suffering of so many in slavery. Entire systems have been built around racism in this country and demanding change from it will never be easy, but we in Essex know it is the right thing to do. We support diversity in Vermont and each day will ask ourselves, 'How can we do even better?'"

Vermont Governor Phil Scott

“George Floyd’s death was a tragedy, and although today’s verdict brings some justice, there is still so much more work to achieve a truly just society. We cannot treat the racism that led to Mr. Floyd’s murder as if it is a single, uncomfortable and rare event. We must acknowledge that, over many generations, systemic racism was built into our social systems, our economic systems and everything in between.

“We’re not immune to it in Vermont and it will take our nation, and our state, years of committed work to achieve real and lasting equality for every American. Let’s use this moment to acknowledge the scope of the challenge and recommit to the work of building an equitable country. This is our obligations as citizens, as we pursue a more perfect union.”

Vermont Criminal Justice Council and Vermont Police Academy statement

"Derek Chauvin’s conviction in the murder of George Floyd, as well as numerous examples of police brutality against people of color in the recent past, weigh heavily on the Vermont Criminal Justice Council. The Council bears critical responsibilities surrounding law enforcement training, culture, policy, and accountability. It is important that police reconcile and repair relationships as members of their communities. In particular, leaders must continue to respect the humanity of those who have been harmed as well as those who commit to doing the work.

"The Council serves as the leading edge of policing in Vermont. We are responsible for training, as well as the cultivation and shaping of culture for current and prospective law enforcement. We are taking actions to transform law enforcement in Vermont through our newly formed committees on professional regulation and hiring standards, as well as renewed commitment to fair and impartial policing, training curriculum development, and reimagination of staffing and resources. It is our vision that instances of police brutality and misconduct will not occur in Vermont.

"We welcome all people to join us in our commitment not just to implement policies and training, but also to develop a culture that protects and embraces communities in Vermont, including those that have been historically marginalized."

Vermont Lt. Governor Molly Gray

“While today’s verdict marks a moment of accountability, the verdict neither solves police violence in America, nor brings George Floyd back to his family or loved ones.

"This is not the end but the beginning of a long path of police reform, criminal justice reform and collective efforts to root out systemic racism across our country.

"Last June, Floyd’s young daughter, Gianna, proudly declared, ‘Daddy changed the world.’ She is right. I draw hope from the millions of Americans, including the thousands of Vermonters, who have protested, marched and spoken up this past year against systemic racism in our communities and institutions. We cannot stop speaking up and speaking out. It’s up to all of us to continue this work towards justice.

"This evening, my heart goes out to the Floyd family, the greater Minneapolis community, and all those in Vermont and across our country who have been deeply impacted by this trial.”

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan

“I join the voices of many Americans today in thanking the jury for their service and, like millions of Americans, I am grateful that there was accountability for George Floyd’s murder. But the work for justice continues. I stand in solidarity with people across the country who are fighting to bring equity and fairness to the justice system.

“George Floyd should be alive today. He deserved to be treated with respect and fairness, especially by a member of law enforcement. We must continue to address and combat systemic racism in all spheres of this country, especially within our criminal justice system. And we must listen to and hold up the voices and experiences of the BIPOC community.

“I remain committed to working toward systemic change to make Vermont a more fair and equitable place for all.”

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont

“Justice has been served. As a former prosecutor I know well that officers of the law have the incredibly important and difficult job of keeping our communities safe, but in so doing they cannot be above the law. Murder is murder, and the police badge must never serve as a shield against accountability for those who commit it. Derek Chauvin received a fair trial and a jury of his peers has found him guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. He will now face the consequences of committing this crime.

“George Floyd is yet another unarmed black man whose life was unjustifiably ended at the hands of police officers who have sworn an oath to protect and serve all members of the American public. While nothing can bring Mr. Floyd back, I pray that this verdict gives his family, his loved ones, and the all who are closely watching this case a sense that the American legal system can render real justice. For George Floyd, I hope we all now can take the breath that was denied him, to recommit ourselves to addressing the racial injustices that have plagued our nation for far too long.”

U.S. Representative Peter Welch of Vermont

"This verdict is a relief. My hope is that George Floyd’s loved ones receive some comfort in this verdict, but it will not bring him back into their lives. George Floyd was publicly murdered on camera for the world to see, and after too many Black men suffering the same fate at the hands of law enforcement, our justice system has finally offered some measure of accountability by holding Officer Chauvin responsible for the murder he committed. The horrific evidence of this crime was beamed across the world and was there for all of us to see. It was there to see for the bystanders who tried to intervene. It was there to see for the police officials who testified against Officer Chauvin. And it was there to see for the jury who delivered this verdict. We all saw Officer Chauvin, who, with his hands resting nonchalantly in his pockets, spent more than nine long minutes brutally murdering Mr. Floyd as he pleaded for his life.

"This verdict is an important step for our country as we wrestle with centuries of injustice. But there is so much more work to do in our communities, in the halls of Congress, and in each of our lives to build a society free of bigotry and inequality. We all must commit to do the work, every day."

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont

“The jury's verdict delivers accountability for Derek Chauvin, but not justice for George Floyd. Real justice for him and too many others can only happen when we build a nation that fundamentally respects the human dignity of every person. The trauma and tragedy of George Floyd’s murder must never leave us. It was a manifestation of a system that callously devalues the lives of Black people. Our struggle now is about justice—not justice on paper, but real justice in which all Americans live their lives free of oppression. We must boldly root out the cancer of systemic racism and police violence against people of color.”

Mia Schultz, president of the Rutland Area NAACP

“At first, as a nation, as a world, we took a breath — one that was stolen from Floyd. Then ... we are happy with the bare minimum? With the obvious? We’re just happy with what should have been done? We watched a lynching happen. The history of America tells us we will never see that. We have had example after example, and still cannot get this basic semblance of humanity...It feels sad now.

“Now, the focus is the police department. That would be the floor, the beginning of change. When you’re talking about hundreds of years of dehumanization, it will take a while to dismantle that. I agree with throwing the book (at Chauvin) now, here we are, waiting for the sentencing. That’s nerve wracking for me. I worry about the punishment.

“It took a lot to get here. People are paying attention now. We’re happy because this means forward movement ... we have white allies, we are watching this happen. But an hour before the verdict was read, a 16-year-old black girl was murdered by police.”

U.S. President Joe Biden

“It was a murder in the full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see. The systemic racism that is a stain on our nation’s soul. The knee on the neck of justice for Black Americans...the pain and the exhaustion that Black and Brown Americans experience every single day.

“They are a remarkable family of extraordinary courage. Nothing can ever bring their brother, their father, back … this (growth) takes acknowledging and confronting head on, systemic racism and the racial disparities that exist in policing, and in our criminal justice system more broadly.”

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris

“A measure of justice is not the same as equal justice. This verdict brings us a step closer and the fact is, we still have work to do. We still must reform the system ... The president and I will continue to urge the Senate to pass this legislation, not as a panacea for every problem, but as a start.

“Black Americans and Black men in particular have been treated — throughout the course of our history — as less than human,” Harris said. “Black men are fathers, and brothers and sons, and uncles and grandfathers. And friends. And neighbors. Their lives must be valued in our education system, in our healthcare system, in our housing system, in our economic system, in our criminal justice system. In our nation. Full stop.”

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