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Politics / Issues

Black Activists In Tampa Bay Relieved By Verdict, Say More Work Is Needed

Protesters at Cyrus Green Park in Tampa
Daylina Miller
/
WUSF Public Media

Some activists hope that the verdict will lead to a change in police behavior.

Like African-American leaders across the nation, Tampa Bay area activists described a sense of relief Tuesday at the guilty verdict of ex-police officer Derek Chauvin.

But they say there's more work to do.

Christina Boneta, a co-founder of Black Lives Matters in Pasco County, said she had no expectation of a guilty verdict in the murder trial, based on the number of officers exonerated in the past after killing Black people.

“When I woke up this morning, of course, just because of what America has done time and time again, there was that chance I felt that somehow, he was going to walk away from it,” she said.

Trevor Harvey, head of the Sarasota chapter of the NAACP, agreed.

"It's the same way for the rest of the country, the black community, as well that we finally have gotten the victory that we have been longing for, for decades,” he said.

Harvey said the verdict puts the NAACP and other civil rights groups in a better position to advocate for police reform in the future. He said he hopes the verdict will lead to a change in police behavior.

"To let them know just because you wear a uniform and you wear a badge, if you do something that violates the law, you are going to be held accountable for it and you are going to pay the price for it," he said.

Boneta said she believes the only reason Chauvin went to trial was because of the reaction around the world to the video of him placing a knee on the neck of George Floyd for more than eight minutes, leading to Floyd's death.

“It is definitely a good feeling as a woman of color to know that this just wasn't another thing that just got swept underneath the rug that no one cared about,” she said.

“Because it would have been pretty devastating and pretty heartless to know that once again a man could literally be killed in broad daylight, pretty much lynched, and someone was going to be able to get away with it.”

Donna Davis, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter chapter in Tampa, said she and others are planning to march this weekend in Tampa to mark the verdict.

It's uncertain if that event is a celebration of the verdict or a protest of what could happen again.

“I think there is so much work before us, I think we can exhale,” she said. “But, for that exhalation and that momentary relief to extend all the way to celebration, is premature at best.”

She says she continues to keep in mind all the other police shootings and killings of Black people - including another just days ago in a Minneapolis suburb.

“I am not pleased that I am spending some of the prime years of my life fighting for things that should be a gift,” Davis said. “I am still aggrieved in my spirit, because George Floyd, as we saw this week with Daunte Wright, he will not be the last. This is not over.”

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