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'This shouldn't have been historic': Spokane activists shift to what's next

Local leaders are looking ahead after Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three murder counts.

SPOKANE, Wash. — After Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts of murder, the focus quickly shifted to what comes next.

Here's what local leaders had to say the morning after the jury announced their decision.

"I do have a fear that this moment in time can potentially be fleeting."

Jerall Haynes is the president of the Spokane Public Schools board. He's also a candidate for Spokane City Council.

He said the Derek Chauvin verdict is a moment in time that has had and will continue to have impacts on Spokane students, families and the entire community.

"I think the very first step is making sure we take the time to process yesterday's events," Haynes said. "After that, I think we can achieve change but it would require a lot more truth telling about our past and our present."

 

When asked if Spokane is making progress toward racial equality, Haynes said the trial has made the conversation surrounding changes within police forces easier.

"I think the events over the last year has potential to cause a rippling effect across our entire community," he said. "But the reality is we need change across all of our major systems."

Spokane Public Schools released a statement the day of the verdict, committing further to their "Excellence for Everyone" statement by "acknowledging that everyone in our system has not experienced this equitably".

"I'm so proud to be a part of an educational system that really took a proactive stance and said that we were tired of empty comments," Haynes said.

The statement promises "measurable action steps for systemic change".

When asked what he thinks some of those measurable steps should be, Haynes  said those steps are already being taken.

"We're changing and reviewing all of our policies and procedures and making sure that our language and our day to day practice mirrors that vision statement of excellence for everyone," he said.

Haynes also said the board has taken steps to overhaul security practices in schools.

"[Security specialists] had a shift in practice and methodology to become true guardians of our students, our staff and our facilities," Haynes said.

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When asked to describe his initial reaction to the verdict, Haynes said he felt "cautiously optimistic" mixed with both fear and worry.

"I'm cautiously optimistic because yesterday I think restored some hope that our systems can be responsive and can be held accountable," he said. "I also know and acknowledge that we have a long way to go and to be honest I do worry and I do have a fear that this moment in time can potentially be fleeting if we're not careful and intentional about continuing to move these systems forward."

He said in the aftermath of the Derek Chauvin trial, it's important for people to talk to each other and listen to honor other's experiences.

"We're all going to be impacted differently by yesterday's verdict and by the things that have happened over the course of the last year," Haynes said. "Some people are really going to have to process being almost forced to witness the death of a person over and over again."

"This should have been standard from the get go."

Kurtis Robinson is the former Spokane NAACP President. He joined Up with KREM almost a year ago the morning after Spokane's first Black Lives Matter protest. Robinson came back on the show to digest the Derek Chauvin guilty verdict.

"I had a lot of conflicting emotions as any person of color probably did. Relief that there's a prevailing consciousness behind this whole experience and that this should have never been historic. This should have been standard from the get go," he said. "That's still rolling through my thoughts today as we start contemplating what happened with the 16-year-old-girl."

Robinson was referring to the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Ma’Khia. She was shot by a Columbus police officer who was responding to reports of a stabbing.

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Up with KREM asked Robinson what the future holds for organization like the NAACP.

"I think the impact will be more galvanized than diminished in our efforts to continue the movement that began long before the incident happened with Mr. Floyd," he said.

Robinson said that movement needs to continue to grow and evolve. He said that includes moving law enforcement into the service industry.

He said qualified immunity is still on the table. Qualified immunity is a type of legal immunity which protects government officials from civil lawsuits unless an official violated a "clearly established statutory or constitutional right".

"We have absolutely failed our law enforcement family by holding them accountable and by consequence they have failed us," he said. "We have to really start taking a look at the historic roots behind how law enforcement came into being. It was really founded around the issues of slave patrol. So when we start thinking about where it needs to go we need to get to that and really start addressing that root cause."

Robinson said looking at the historical roots contextualizes the current affects that play out and the events that aren't heard about on a national level or at all.

RELATED: 'He was guilty': Alternate juror in Chauvin trial speaks out about case

When asked what the Spokane community can do to be an ally, Robinson said it's about accountability.

"We absolutely have to be willing to step up and step out there and let our legislators, our politicians our law enforcement leaders know that we expect continued forward movement..." he said.

"And to quit letting the bad actors in this industry determine how this industry is going to continue to be viewed and continue to operate," Robinson added. "We have to start really dealing with the mindset and the acceptance that this is just the way that culture has been and the messaging that this has been okay. Because it's never been okay and it shouldn't be okay and it should not and need not be okay in the future."

At first, Robinson said he didn't have one word to describe his reaction to the guilty verdict. 

"I don't have one word. I will say I am hopeful and I am also concerned. Here's the word for you: watchful."

"It's a moment to breath for George Floyd in his honor."

Miguel Gonzales is a Member of Spokane for Black Lives Matter group. He explained that the group is not affiliated in any official way with BLM Incorporated

"We're simply a group of activists and citizens that belief in a wholistic approach to supporting all people of color and those marginalized in response by surrounding the death of George Floyd," Gonzales said.

When asked about the Derek Chauvin verdict, Gonzales said it gave him hope and relief. He said it's the first step of real change and reform to police actions.

"A lot of people are saying this is justice but it's not. It's not a celebration. It's not a moment to rejoice, but it's a moment to breath for George Floyd in his honor," he said. "This is the start of holding people accountable for their actions when it affects the community."

He added that it will take agencies themselves to make changes that last.

"It holds these people accountable for their actions because agencies are full of people and they get to the point to where the power consumed them and they play self before service to community and that leads to an interpretation of rules instead of actually abiding by those rules," Gonzales said.

"I have a feeling it's going to take it in a direction to where rules are refined yes it's reformed but it's also a matter of identifying these individuals and hopefully removing them from those places of authority."

Gonzales said the only way to keep people involved is to remember that this is not a final destination. He said this is a changing point, but it's not the end of the story.

"There's still work that has to be done in our every day actions and communicating with to our city leadership to our city council members to our mayor and to those who help support the community, he said. "It's going to be a constant development of making this change and bringing the change every day that we can."

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