'Everyone is watching now': N.L. academics respond to Derek Chauvin guilty verdict

·3 min read
Delores Mullings, a professor of social work at Memorial University with a focus on race and social justice, said she has mixed feelings about Derek Chauvin's guilty verdict.  (CBC - image credit)
Delores Mullings, a professor of social work at Memorial University with a focus on race and social justice, said she has mixed feelings about Derek Chauvin's guilty verdict. (CBC - image credit)
Delores Mullings, a professor of social work at Memorial University with a focus on race and social justice, said she has mixed feelings about Derek Chauvin's guilty verdict.
Delores Mullings, a professor of social work at Memorial University with a focus on race and social justice, said she has mixed feelings about Derek Chauvin's guilty verdict. (CBC)

The impact of a guilty verdict this week in a high-profile murder trial in the United States was felt well outside that country's borders — including in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd last May.

Floyd's murder sparked international protests, violent clashes and calls to address systemic racism in law enforcement and society.

For Delores Mullings, a professor of social work at Memorial University with a focus on race and social justice, the news of the guilty verdict prompted mixed feelings, because even as Chauvin's trial was happening, another tragedy was unfolding.

"We celebrated the guilty verdict of the executioner of George Floyd, and in no time we were already grieving the loss of another Black life," Mullings told CBC News on Wednesday.

Daunte Wright, 20, was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer on April 11 — during Chauvin's trial, which was happening nearby — causing further unrest. Former officer Kim Potter has been charged with second-degree manslaughter.

But Mullings said she's elated by the Chauvin verdict itself.

"For once a white police officer was held accountable for the daylight, brazen execution of a Black person," she said.

"So it's with a heavy heart that I smile and keep feeling the hope, because without hope we're lost. But there's a lot of grieving happening still."

Kim Phillips, an instructor from California completing her PhD in sociology at Memorial University, says Derek Chauvin's guilty verdict is something to celebrate — and, as a just verdict for the murder of a Black man — long overdue.
Kim Phillips, an instructor from California completing her PhD in sociology at Memorial University, says Derek Chauvin's guilty verdict is something to celebrate — and, as a just verdict for the murder of a Black man — long overdue.(CBC)

Kim Phillips, an instructor from California completing her PhD in sociology at MUN, said Chauvin's verdict is something to celebrate.

"But it's sad that we must celebrate a just verdict," she said.

The jury in the Chauvin trial returned with a guilty verdict after about 10 hours of deliberations over two days. Phillips said she heard some people say it was "too soon."

"My thought [was] it was 400 years in the making. This verdict was not too soon. It was way too late," she said.

"I hope that this is a start to seeing more justice for people of colour, and not that it's a one and done."

'The world is watching'

Phillips was in college in southern California when four white police officers were acquitted of assaulting on Rodney King in Los Angeles in 1992, setting off riots throughout the city.

Phillips remembers it as a scary and tense time, and said some people feared the same thing happening if Chauvin were found not guilty.

"I think that the people who were worried that there going to be some sort of riots, or some sort of chaos in the streets if the verdict was different, maybe there was some justification in that," Phillips said.

"But at the same time, oppressors do not get to decide how the oppressed react to oppression.… I'm glad that did not happen, but it's more so I'm glad that we got a just verdict and so therefore those emotions were not there."

Mullings said she's not convinced Chauvin's guilty verdict will have a broader impact on racial injustice — although she hopes it will.

"We've seen us inch forward with different policies, and programs and recognitions. And then we've seen things just go back into the shadows," she said.

But there are some differences in this case, she said.

"There are some morbid benefits to Mr. Floyd's execution in that people are seeing what police violence and brutality looks like, not only on Black bodies, but other racialized and Indigenous bodies," she said.

"The world is watching. Not only in the United States … everyone is watching now."

Chauvin is expected to be sentenced in June.

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