LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Southland leaders reacted quickly Tuesday to the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, while law enforcement agencies remained on heightened alert in response to possible rallies or protests.
"Justice has been served! I think we can breathe a sigh of relief," Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Gardena, wrote on Twitter. "This is the moment we've been waiting for. But we still have more work to do. This is only the beginning."
Los Angeles City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez issued a statement saying, "The murder of George Floyd at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve marked another moment of betrayal to communities of color. Today's verdict is one small step forward in the never-ending fight for justice and accountability, underscoring that no one is above the law."
L.A. Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas called the verdict a "victory for justice."
"But despite today's outcome, our hearts remain heavy for the loved ones of George Floyd who have lost a father, a brother, and a friend," he said. "Though his life was senselessly cut short, Mr. Floyd's legacy lives on through our collective work and advocacy to reimagine policing across this country. So, while today's verdict will not bring George Floyd back, my hope is that his family will know that he has forever changed this nation for the better."
Councilman Joe Buscaino added, "Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd in the light of day, with a maliciousness caught on tape far too many times in our history. In taking the life of one of the people he was sworn to protect, Chauvin disrespected the solemnity of his duty in the worst possible way. I am so glad that the jury said that Black Lives Matter, but this is just one day, on a very long journey to the reckoning that we must face and the healing that we need."
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, cautioned that legal justice "does not bring back George Floyd and justice in one case does not erase thousands of other wrongs. We must work to make sure that this step toward justice is followed by thousands, or millions, of steps in that direction."
A group of Southland faith leaders began gathering in Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles for a rally. The group known as Community Control Over the Police planned to rally Tuesday afternoon at Florence and Normandie. Members of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles planned to rally outside Mayor Eric Garcetti's home in Hancock Park.
There were no reports of any disturbances or arrests.
Law enforcement agencies across the Southland have been on heightened alert this week in anticipation of possible protests or rallies following the verdict in Chauvin's trial. Chauvin was convicted Tuesday afternoon of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, and he was immediately taken into custody.
As the verdict was being read, the Long Beach Police Department declared a "stage 2 tactical alert," which means additional officers will be on patrol ready to respond to any calls for service. The city stressed there was no information about planned protests in Long Beach.
The Los Angeles Police Department also declared a tactical alert Tuesday afternoon "in an abundance of caution."
There are no current unlawful assemblies and the department is proactively taking initiative to ensure adequate resources to respond to any situation should the need arise, according to the LAPD. "We remain committed to ensuring the balance of ensuring public safety of all and being respectful to the community. We strive to protect and serve every member of the community equally."
The city of Los Angeles closed all of its COVID-19 vaccination sites in response to the verdict being read. Anyone with appointments at those sites was being urged to return Wednesday. County-run vaccination sites remained open.
Santa Ana police were also on "tactical alert" in case demonstrations grow unruly, Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said. All of the department's detectives were in uniform and ready to respond, Bertagna added.
"We encourage peaceful protest, but we won't tolerate any looting, assaulting people or officers," Bertagna said.
The unions representing police officers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose issued a joint statement reacting to the Chauvin verdict, calling it "just."
"Although the verdict will not bring George Floyd back, this tragedy provides all of us in law enforcement an opportunity to improve how our nation is policed, and our three police unions are committed to enacting reforms that will keep all Americans safe," the unions stated.
Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statement saying, "The hard truth is that, if George Floyd looked like me, he'd still be alive today."
"No conviction can repair the harm done to George Floyd and his family, but today's verdict provides some accountability as we work to root out the racial injustice that haunts our society," Newsom said. "We must continue the work of fighting systemic racism and excessive use of force. It's why I signed some of the nation's most progressive police reform legislation into law. I will continue working with community leaders across the state to hear concerns and support peaceful expression."
Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California, said the verdict "represents the promise of our justice system."
"Police officers' disproportionate use of force against people of color is a stain on our nation," Padilla said. "The list of Black and Brown Americans killed by law enforcement and denied accountability in court is abhorrently long. I stand with the community of Minneapolis, the Black Lives Matter movement, and millions of Americans in mourning the murder of George Floyd by Officer Derek Chauvin.
"And I know that true justice will require work far beyond this verdict," he said. "Accountability for police officers should be an expectation, not an aberration. It is past time to reform our justice system to recognize at every level that Black lives matter."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, also chimed in, saying the verdict is one step in a longer journey.
"This verdict is an opportunity to show all Americans that police must be held accountable for their actions," Feinstein said. "I have great respect for law enforcement, but I always believe there must be transparency and accountability. The trial and today's verdict is a step in that direction."
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón wrote on Twitter that the jury "delivered accountability, but the future of equality rests squarely in America's hands."
"Today's verdict is a critical step in the ongoing march towards restoring public trust in our criminal justice system," Gascon said. "... I will continue to advocate for better training for officers, stronger accountability in use-of-force cases and in independent review of officer- involved shootings. Effective policing must be fair and just to enhance our collective safety."
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said law enforcement officers who violate the law must be held to answer.
"As we have all seen with the verdict in the Derek Chauvin case, we must have faith in the judicial process," he said. "The law will take its course, and justice will prevail. If a crime is committed, regardless of who the perpetrator is, they will be brought to justice. Victims will always matter. Transparency and accountability works both ways.
"When a law enforcement officer cross the line from protector to oppressor, they must be held accountable," he said.
Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, said she hopes the verdict brings some comfort to Floyd's family, "but I know that no ruling can ever heal the wounds left behind by institutionalized violence."
Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles, said despite the verdict, Americans should "abhor" the fact that "communities of color remain at risk at every traffic stop."
"Our nation must question why police and policing is much more important than the lives of our community members," Salas said. "We must invest in community and increase accountability for those who violate the human rights of our community members. Congress must step in to address the injustice they perpetrate. Mere reform is not enough to stop the racism that makes killing fields of our communities."
Garcetti hailed the verdict as a step toward healing, reconciliation and accountability.
"For any of us who have lived through bad verdicts where justice was denied, we have seen too painfully and felt too painfully what it means for our country to stagger backwards," he said. "So for today, for us to step forward even in the midst of our pain, it's a good day.
"This is about much more than one police officer. It's also a moment to look at a system that is as predictable as it is pernicious far too often. The social order, way beyond our criminal justice system in which too often the benefits are afforded to a privileged few and denied to too many based on their race, their sex or their identity. Black people in this country have been denied their rights in this country for far too long. Today is not the end of that system, but it is one turn in the long road of fixing it, one step towards healing," Garcetti said.
Pete Hardin, a former federal and state prosecutor and judge advocate in the Marines, and a candidate for Orange County district attorney, praised the verdicts.
"Today, the jury in the Derek Chauvin trial showed that members of law enforcement who violate the law will be held accountable for their actions," Hardin said. "As a Marine Corps officer and judge advocate, I saw firsthand how good Marines are quick to repudiate the ones who tarnish the institution. Similarly, having worked closely with local, state, and federal law enforcement personnel throughout my career, I know that good cops want to see those among them who violate the law held accountable in order to uphold the professionalism, integrity, and noble character that should be the heart of policing."