Story by Noah Baughman, Austin Caperton, Ronnie Guy, Jernicya McCrackin, Samuel Lindsay, Haley Stockwell, and Seth Tackett / Contributing Writers
The guilty verdict on April 20 in the trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin on all counts in the death of George Floyd resonated with Middle Tennessee State University students.
Several offered their thoughts on the verdict and what impact it could have on racial relations moving forward.
Dominic Sardon, a sophomore at MTSU studying Audio Production, said he is happy with the verdict, believing it could be a turning point for racial relations in this country.
“These days we have a transformative generation that wants to fight. We’re coming all together for some goal, whether it’s equality or whatever. I know there’s no beauty in George Floyd’s death, but this whole experience has gotten a whole bunch of people more aware. More unity!” Sardon said.
Isaiah James, a sophomore at MTSU studying Mechatronics said, “It’s not even a matter of race—if a man says he can’t breathe and you have backup within two feet of you, I see no reason for you to keep your knee on his neck.”
Other students, though happy with the verdict, believe more needs to be done. Luna Yanely, a sophomore at MTSU with a video and film production major, believes the verdict will help improve strained race relations in America but added that she wants even more accountability.
“I mean, one cop being convicted…will not fix everything,” Yanely stated. “There are years and years of pain and violence that have been affecting these communities, and Derek Chauvin was not the only problem. Now we’ve seen that it is possible to convict a cop for killing people—which was starting to seem impossible after all the other non-guilty verdicts.”
Tyler Gentile, who graduated from the Professional Actors Training Program in 2020, calls the verdict “too little, too late.”
“It’s great that he got arrested for his crimes, as he is a criminal, but that doesn’t bring George Floyd back,” Gentile said. “That’s why race relations are so tense right now; black people know that it could always be them next. Until Qualified Immunity and other BS protecting cops cease existing, we’ll always have these issues.”
He added that he was shocked about the verdict and had figured Chauvin would be convicted of something but not of all the charges.
“I feel good about it; I feel as though it’s a good step forward to getting justice for African Americans that have been killed and will be killed by police officers in the future after George Floyd. I know that it will not end, and we have more work to do. I feel like the verdict is long overdue and that it is a small step of what’s left for us to really get equality. But at the same time I think it was justice because we have someone who will pay for killing us,” said 19-year-old Shelby Ores, who is majoring in biology as an upcoming junior.
But 19-year-old Arinze Onyekwelu had a different view of how much justice was achieved.
“I think the verdict is not justice. I’m scared for my own life because I do not know who will be next,” said Onyekwelu, who is a junior majoring in Exercise Science.
Some students questioned whether Chauvin received a fair trial due to the pressure for a guilty verdict. Sophomore Kyle Jernigan, an athletic training major, said Chauvin “was going to be guilty no matter what other evidence would have been presented.”
Sophomore Cade Howell, a pro-pilot major, believes the verdict will be overturned on appeal.
“In my opinion it was obvious that the trail was not fair considering the events that happened outside the courtroom that could have swayed the decision,” Howell said.
Psychology major Madison Lindsay said that public pressure may have been necessary to obtain justice in this case.
“I feel like he was only found guilty because of how widespread this case is. I honestly feel like if it was more obscure, he would have gotten away with it so I can’t say for sure if race relations will get better,” Lindsay said.
Overall, the consensus on campus seemed to be support for the verdict combined with a commitment to keep working on this issue.
“The trial and conviction of Chauvin will not cause change in the police. We still have to make a stand and get it through to the entire country that the situation in Minneapolis never needed to go down that way,” said MTSU student Gloria Betts.
MTSU student Madison Ellis agreed.
“It is awesome to see this man be held accountable, but what about all of the other unjust killers in the line of duty?” Ellis said. “We still need to stand for more than one case, we need to stand for all of them.”
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