Just moments after authorities in Minneapolis announced the upgraded charges in the death of George Floyd, South Florida made their views known about the action through a virtual town hall hosted by Florida International University.
The second-degree murder charge and the charges filed against the three other officers are what Floyd’s family and protesters have been calling for since his tragic death. On Wednesday evening, FIU invited South Florida to make their voices heard about what has happened over the last week, what it means, and what needs to change going forward.
Former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin now faces a second-degree murder charge that could get him a 40-year prison sentence. The three other former officers at the scene were charged with aiding Chauvin and could also spend four decades behind bars.
Criminal justice experts reacted to the charges filed by the Minnesota attorney general.
“I am confident justice will be done. Today we saw the correct charges filed against officer Chauvin, the principal person responsible for the sadistic suffocation that murdered George Floyd,” said H.T. Smith, a law professor at FIU.
“I think it's hugely important,” said Delrish Moss, FIU Police Captain, who added that the Minnesota attorney general didn’t become overzealous. "One of the things you want to make sure that you do is not overcharge and not inappropriately charge, so that you don’t run the risk of losing the case that you are building."
Experts say what happened with Floyd is the worst example of police abuse caught on camera.
“The advent of the cellphone is really helping to see that this isn’t anything new ... this has been going on for a very long time this is our history," said professor Candice Ammons-Blanfort. “... We should be asking, how did we get here and that didn’t start with George Floyd.“
Students also weighed in over Zoom.
“We’re tired. I am only 20 years old," said Artrice Shepherd, the FIU Black Student Union president. The people I got to school with are my age, but we see our parents have to endure it — my grandparents even more.“
FIU president Mark Rosenberg gave a vision for what lies ahead.
“As a university, at FIU we embrace hope. We know, we know this is not a level playing field for all, but we are going to strive to make it a level playing field," he said.
FIU wants to keep this conversation going moving forward about how the university can use its resources to be a force in South Florida to bring change not just in the criminal justice system, but in all areas where there is unfairness and inequality.
The university is having another town hall with the university community on Friday at 3 p.m. with Rosenberg, and they are encouraging everyone associated with FIU to go to their social media platforms and be part of the discussion.