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Bishop Statement on Chauvin Verdict

Posted: April 20 2021 at 08:52 PM
Author: Bishop John L. Hopkins

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Protesters gathered outside the Hennepin County Government Center prior to the start of the Derek Chauvin trial. Photo courtesy Chad Davis, Wikimedia Commons

Praise be to God! The guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial is a crucial step towards rebuilding trust in our democratic system of justice that is celebrated around the world. Although justice has been served, my heart goes out to George Floyd’s family, as they will never have him back. We hope the knowledge that his death sparked an anti-racism movement with a demand for police reform may give them some solace. 

Even as the Chauvin trial was taking place, we grieved the news of a Minnesota police officer fatally shooting 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop and a Chicago police officer shooting and killing 13-year-old Adam Toledo in an alley near one of our United Methodist churches in the Little Village neighborhood.

On May 25, 2020, videos showing former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin fatally forcing his knee on George Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes renewed a long struggle in confronting systematic racism in our country and abuse of power by police officers. Seeing Floyd in agony and saying multiple times, “I can’t breathe,” is etched in the conscience of our souls. 

This is a victory for the Floyd family and the City of Minneapolis. The openly televised trial presented the evidence and a diverse jury of citizens reached a verdict in the trial.

This is a victory for law enforcement. In a democracy, police need the support of all its citizens, especially people of color, to carry out their work. Holding police to high standards of training, conduct and ethics increases all citizens’ respect for our dedicated first responders.

This is a victory for democracy. A totalitarian state would never convict one of its agents. Democracy demands its citizen take responsibility for caring for the welfare of all of its citizens, not just those like us. The guilty verdict is a sign that our country can live up to its promises that all people are created equal and have equal treatment under the law.

This is a victory for our church, as many United Methodists have advocated and prayed for a fair trial, demanding more accountability for abuse of force by authorities. I am proud of the witness I have seen and heard in Northern Illinois as you work toward changing hearts and unjust, discriminatory systems.

Yes, there is much more to do. Dignity and respect for all people will take more than one verdict. Resentment takes time to heal. Lack of trust takes time to restore. Fear can only be replaced with love. As people of faith, we persist in hope even when the road is long and the journey is hard. The journey is easier when we invite others to join us along the way.

As followers of Jesus, let us rejoice and not lose hope. As Paul said in Romans, “Now, hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5). 

Read statement from Anti-Racism Task Force

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