April 21, 2021
Statement on the Verdict in the Murder of George Floyd
In a just America, George Floyd would be with his family, fully employed, and able to access healthcare. In our America, a “bouquet of by-standers” witnessed his murder and captured it on videotape. They made it possible for a jury of his peers to convict Derek Chauvin of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Mr. Floyd’s family and close friends have verdicts that affirm his life, his humanity, and his place in society. Mr. Floyd would be alive today if on May 25, 2020 the law enforcement charged with protecting us all had affirmed his life, his humanity, and his membership in society, even as they pursued allegations of wrongdoing. It was one man’s knee, but an unjust system that put that man’s knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck.
The nation is now experiencing a profound sense of relief. Family, friends, and supporters are relieved by the truth of the verdict. Public officials in many places are relieved for a guilty verdict that lessens tensions in their communities. Many like us are also relieved that the persistent moral witness in streets across Minnesota, Florida, and around the world has registered deep in the soul of society, bringing for once a hard stop to the systemic injustice visited upon people of African descent for generations.
But the relief that comes when organized communities back away from expressing themselves is an unjust fear which is a symptom of persistent racism in our culture. Our nation must learn to welcome large gatherings of its diverse peoples when they seek to redress grievances in public.
The Black Lives Movement has inspired both church and society to take bold messages to the streets. The Florida Council of Churches is grateful for the non-violent work of Black Lives Matter: Tampa, which has led large protests centered around the families whose loved ones were killed by law enforcement.
People of faith and goodwill must receive this moment as an opportunity to unite in pressing forward on the system-wide changes that will end extra-judicial killings. New laws are to be adopted. New policies are to be crafted. New practices are to be inculcated. Law enforcement and the public imagination are undergoing a transformation to welcome everyone in any public space. Our peace officers shall learn to secure public space equally for all. For this is the direction that the long arc of the universe bends.
We are inspired by the family of George Floyd in their grief, we are encouraged by the bystanders in giving witness to the truth, and we pray for the strength of us all to participate in bringing about a society where Mr. Floyd would be living, laughing, and loving peacefully in his own home. Come great Spirit of truth, justice, and power!
Rev. Russell L. Meyer, D. Min. Rev. Raymond Johnson, Ph. D.
Executive Director President