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KPBS Midday Edition Special: San Diego Reacts To The Chauvin Trial Verdict

A crowd rallied in support of the guilty verdict in the George Floyd murder trial in Downtown San Diego. April 20, 2021.
Matthew Bowler
A crowd rallied in support of the guilty verdict in the George Floyd murder trial in Downtown San Diego. April 20, 2021.
San Diego's community leaders react to what many see as a turning point for equality following guilty verdicts for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd.

After a highly publicized and emotionally charged criminal trial, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd.

Floyd’s murder sparked a racial reckoning in this country as the world watched how this case unfolded, and many are hoping that Chauvin's conviction will set a new precedent for accountability, justice and equal treatment in interactions between police and people of color in the U.S.

To gauge the reaction of the guilty verdict among those in the community, KPBS Midday Edition spoke with elected officials, an educator, San Diego County's director of the newly formed Office of Equity and Racial Justice, a police representative and the sister of Alfred Olango who was shot and killed by an El Cajon police officer in 2016. In addition to these guests, we'll hear from some of the people who marched in downtown San Diego following news of Chauvin's conviction.

Community Members Look To Continue Fight For Racial Justice

On Tuesday night, people marched through downtown San Diego in support of the verdict. Anny Reyes, a Ph.D. candidate who identifies as Afro-Latina, was among them.

“It was accountability, it is not justice. We are demanding that the system itself needs to be changed. We need systemic change within the justice system, within policing," Reyes told KPBS. "I’m here for that, we need to continue this fight because this is just the beginning."

San Diego Mayor Highlights Need For Reform, Accountability

Earlier this month San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria put forth a number of police reforms as part of an empowerment plan for San Diego's Black community.

He said Floyd's death and the verdict against Chauvin, "highlights, in probably the most extreme way, the need for reform, the need for accountability and the need to do better and what happens when we fail to do that."

Gloria spoke with Midday Edition about his administration's initiatives for police and racial equity reform which reflect the larger reckoning with racial justice across the country.

City Councilwoman Calls Chauvin Verdict 'A Turning Point'

Since George Floyd's death in May 2020, there’s been a deep examination of policing and systemic racism both nationally and here in San Diego. City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe is chair of the council’s Committee on Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods. She has been a voice for social justice and has helped craft local police reforms.

Chauvin Trial Stirs Strong Emotions In Sister Of Man Shot, Killed By El Cajon Police

The trial for the murder of George Floyd has sparked painful memories in many people of color who have seen their loved ones killed or injured at the hands of police. One of those people is Lucy Olongo, sister of Alfred Olongo who was killed after an encounter with El Cajon police in 2016.

In an emotional interview, she reads from a message her mother sent to the Floyd family following the verdict.

"Only change in the system may heal the wound in my heart," Olango read.

Demonstrators Hope Guilty Verdict Will Make Way For Racial Healing

San Diegans marched downtown last night in support of the verdict. Dr. Maria Uloko, a surgeon in La Jolla, was among the marchers and shared her thoughts. 

"I think where we're at is just acknowledging that there's a gaping wound, that people have been reporting for centuries. And no one has been paying attention, and so now we're finally paying attention to the wound. So, is this a gateway to healing? I don't think so just yet. But the first steps to healing is actually knowing there's a wound present," Uloko said.

Black Police Officer Sees Guilty Verdict As Step In The Right Direction

The prosecution in the Chauvin trial made a point of saying that it was not an anti-police trial, but instead a murder trial against one former policeman. The lawyers said police across the nation were appalled by the video of the murder of George Floyd.

Harold Oliver is the spokesperson for the San Diego Black Police Officers Association as well as a sergeant with the San Diego Police Department.

Director Of County Racial Equity Office Says Trial Highlights Need For Accountability

The activism surrounding the murder of George Floyd and outrage over institutional racism have already produced some changes in government. San Diego County, for instance, has created a new Office of Equity and Racial Justice. The director of the office, Andrew Strong, is a long-time county administrator who is now one of the few people of color in county leadership.

Activists Reflect On What Chauvin Trial Means For The Black Community

Alicia Crawford, who identifies as a queer Black woman and is part of Unity Runners, a local group that runs regularly to honor Breonna Taylor and other Black women who no longer have a voice, was also among the marchers who gathered in downtown San Diego Tuesday night.

"Justice for me looks like Black and brown people being able to walk outside of their house and feel like they might not be able to make it back home, or actually to be in their homes and feel like they're completely safe. To me that's true justice and as of today we don't have that," she said.

Black Educator Affirms Need For Change America's Flawed Justice System

Following the death of George Floyd, there was a sustained dialogue demanding systemic change as part of the ongoing movement for justice. While the verdict in the Chauvin trial has been seen by many as a step in the right direction, the need for change in America’s justice system remains an important topic of discussion.

Adisa Alkebulan, a professor of Africana Studies at San Diego State University, said that the conversation over how to fix the America's deeply flawed systems of justice must continue.

Corrected: November 29, 2022 at 2:45 AM PST
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Andrew Strong is the director of the city office of Equity and Racial Justice, it is a county office.
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