Residents relieved at Chauvin verdict

Cathy Spaulding, Muskogee Phoenix, Okla.
·4 min read

Apr. 21—Rikisha Harrison recalled being at a store Tuesday afternoon when someone announced the guilty verdict for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

"Honestly, every black person in the room, we looked at each other like 'justice is served, finally,'" the Muskogee business analyst said. "At the same time, it's the beginning. Hopefully, it's a step in the right direction."

Chauvin was found guilty as charged of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of George Floyd, a Black man who Chauvin killed.

Harrison said she remains concerned about her son, a Muskogee High senior who just turned 18 last week.

"Though he may seem to the world as a young Black man for the moment, it just made it real when he turned 18," he said. "I feel worried, just like any mother would. I just have that extra worry."

Lori Hytche-Thompson said she feels relieved about the verdict, because she has a 25-year-old son.

"He's a great kid, a University of Oklahoma graduate from their theater program, but he is a black in Chicago, heck in America," Thompson said.

She said she feels more confident about her two younger children.

A 20-year-old daughter is attending the historically Black university, Alcorn State.

"I didn't immediately think of her as being in danger, because she's surrounded by people on campus, secluded, that look like her," Thompson said. "And the son here in high school, I knew I could keep him in the house semi-protected."

Evantis Hill picked up her 6-year-old daughter from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center on Tuesday afternoon.

When asked how the Chauvin verdict could affect her daughter's future, Hill said she felt "a little bit better."

"I still feel like it's going to take a few more people to get convicted before things go better, but this is a start, a beginning," she said. "I feel justice has been served, and I'm hoping he gets the time he needs."

Harrison said the verdict was "a great step in the right direction."

She said she had been looking on Facebook for other opinions, but has not seen anything.

"That makes me feel like we're getting somewhere," she said.

Harrison recalled attending a predominantly white school, Pershing Elementary, when she was in school. She said she never felt scared as a Black girl.

Black men face a different situation, she said.

"I had an experience here, when I was 5 years old, of the police taking my dad to jail by mistake," Harrison said. "That's something I'll never forget, seeing how they treated my dad, when he was actually the one who called the police. I have always been scared of the police since I was 5 years old."

Thompson recalled working with the 9-1-1 emergency phone line.

"All the officers aren't the issue," she said. "I know I wanted every police to go home safely. It's the bad cops that are making the world be fearful of their lives and especially if their life is brown."

The Rev. Rooshawn Pratt, pastor of Greater Shiloh Baptist Church, called Tuesday "a day of relief."

"Hopefully, we can all move forward from here," Pratt said. "Hopefully, in situations such as this, unjust killings by officers, we'll see some verdicts that are fair and just instead of it being one-sided."

"Hopefully this will bring some type of change, better training," he said.

Connors State College social sciences division chairman Chris McBeath said he hopes the Chauvin verdict will spur conversations.

"And work toward providing better education about ways to end this division," he said. "Start to make those arguments for increased funding for state agencies and training opportunities."

He said the verdict offers an opportunity to grow.

"We have to be able to have these conversations with the public and work toward unity," he said. "We have quality law enforcement, and we have individuals that don't make the right decisions."

McBeath said he expects an interactive discussion among his students. He said Connors has students likely representing all sides of such issues.

"We have a diverse population here at Connors," he said. "We have students from rural neighborhoods, but we also have students wanting a small college experience who come to us from Dallas or Oklahoma City area or Tulsa. We have a lot of international students. They're interested in cases like this because they may not share the same experience."