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Peoria NAACP President: Chauvin Verdict ‘A Seminal Moment’

Rev. Marvin Hightower, Peoria NAACP president

The president of Peoria's chapter of the NAACP hopes the murder conviction in the death of George Floyd represents a turning point for equal justice and leads to police reform across the country.

Shortly after the guilty verdicts against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin were announced on Tuesday, the Rev. Marvin Hightower said he believes justice was served, and he is optimistic it will mark a first step toward more equal treatment and officers being held responsible for their actions.

“Someone has to be held accountable. No one is above the law and that must be part of the culture, it must become part of the fabric of the United States: that no one is above the law and you will be held accountable for your actions,” Hightower said.

Chauvin was convicted on all three counts he faced relating to Floyd's death last year: unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

“Justice finally was served; however, we can't rest on this case,” said Hightower. “We still have a lot of work that needs to be done. There needs to be reforms in our policing in America. That's just the bottom line. Hopefully we won't get relaxed and won't get complacent, but continue to push forward in getting those reforms in place.”

Hightower said he was overjoyed and emotional over the verdicts, which he said were “a long time coming” following previous acquittals in cases of police violence against Black men.

“However, this one was different in that it was finally police officers, like the police chief and others on the force, saying that this was against their policy, as well as the overwhelming worldwide support for accountability,” said Hightower. “So this was a seminal moment. It took all of that to get these convictions; it took all of that to get justice when justice needed to be served.”

Hightower said people throughout the country and around the world were outraged by the video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes. In that respect, Hightower said race did not shape most opinion.  

“It wasn't just African Americans crying out. It was all across the board that this is wrong, someone needs to be held accountable, and this cannot be tolerated in this in our country,” said Hightower, adding he hopes Floyd’s death continues to emphasize a need to seek police reform.

“A man lost his life, however it brought attention to something that needed to be done a long time ago,” he said. “It's my hope that we all would just continue to band together, continue to put the pressure on, continue to make the needed adjustments in our communities, starting in Illinois, starting in Peoria, and all across this country.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.