Here’s what some Eden Prairie religious leaders and politicians had to say after a jury found Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.
Father J. Michael (Mike) Byron, pastor of Pax Christi Catholic Community in Eden Prairie, said there’s a collective sense of appropriate accountability in these verdicts.
“But I am also aware that there is something much bigger behind this tragedy that won’t be adequately addressed by one man’s death being honored or one police officer going to prison,” he said. “It’s the question of how we live together as a community constituted by racial diversity, particularly where there is a long history of unequal opportunity and uneven enforcement of the law.”
Though he knows many people don’t want to hear it, Byron said there is “systemic racism embedded in the institutions and practices of our culture.”
To admit this is not to lay blame at the feet of any single person or group, but it is to tell the truth that has been part of American life since its inception, he said.
“Any amateur student of civic history is aware of this,” he said. “As Gov. Walz so well said on Monday, if we fail to confront this reality and work to change it, the next inhumane incident will be right back here before us again someday soon in the news media and in the courts. Already it awaits us in Brooklyn Center.
“My sense is that the Floyd verdict is the necessary beginning to a difficult and long-term transformation of human hearts, which is something that no court, Legislature, or display of violence can compel,” Byron continued. “It demands a new vision and a new sense of social solidarity and justice.”
Byron said these are eminently Christian convictions already well-established in Biblical tradition.
“We don’t have to change our beliefs; we just need to be convinced of their essential importance,” he said.
Joan Howe-Pullis, director of justice ministries at Pax Christi Catholic Community, had two “reactions/feelings” to the verdict.
“I’m relieved that justice was served,” Howe-Pullis said, “What we saw with our eyes happened.”
“And as an Eden Prairie community and a people, we have a whole lot of work to do. We need to better understand the mechanics and the systems that allowed this crime to happen. I’m more hopeful about having this conversation than I was this morning. We need people who feel safe with the police (to) join in talking with the people in our community who don’t feel safe with the police.”
Shehla Mushtaq, President of Interfaith Circle in Eden Prairie, said the verdict is the beginning of a complex road ahead, which will involve difficult work, understanding, patience, and, above all, systemic change.
“We must not rest until we rid our society of racial injustice and hate,” Mushtaq said. “Each one of us have a part to play in changing this landscape of inequity and racial injustice.
“It starts simply by practicing every day to look at each and every person we interact with as the sacred human being that they are,” she continued. “Let us not forget that we are all members of the same human race.”
The Rev. Trish Sullivan Vanni, a board member of Interfaith Circle in Eden Prairie and pastoral director of Charis Ecumenical Catholic Community in Eden Prairie, offered her reaction.
“All of our faith traditions in IC (Interfaith Council) is to love our neighbors and work for justice,” Vanni said. “Interfaith Circle welcomes this powerful repudiation of police brutality, and we will continue to work for mutual understanding and against racism in all its forms.”
After the verdict, U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips issued the following statement:
“Justice was served for George Floyd today, but America’s work, our work, to ensure justice, safety and opportunity FOR ALL will continue with even more intention, more fortitude, and more purpose. Onwards in unity.”
District 48A State Rep. Laurie Pryor said she is thinking of the Floyd family and helping them move forward.
“We just have a lot of work to do because everybody needs to go home safe,” Pryor said.
“We owe so much to that young woman (Darnella Frazier), who filmed the incident. She was just a teenager and stood there and held the phone up and recorded it. That’s what brought justice today. We owe a lot to her courage.”
District 49B State Rep. Steve Elkins said the verdict is one moment in the ongoing struggle to create a more just society.
He said it’s a crucial moment, but there is a lot more work to do.
“George Floyd deserves so much more than this; he deserves to be alive and living in a society that values his life,” he said. “I am grateful that we have an opportunity to heal and create a truly just society. I look forward to working towards a better world.”
Christopher Ferguson, the Metropolitan Council District 3 board member and Eden Prairie resident, called the verdict in the Chauvin trial a relief.
The 17-member council is a regional policy-making board guiding the metro area’s strategic growth.
District 3 includes Eden Prairie and 16 other cities, including Chanhassen, Excelsior, Minnetonka, and Wayzata.
“I think it’s the first time in America that an officer has been found guilty for excessive use of force, so it’s a big deal,” he said.
Ferguson said there’s much work to do, but the verdict is a good start.
“If you talked to people who live in Eden Prairie, people of color get stopped for random things much more often than Caucasian people get stopped,” he said. “That happens probably in every city in Minnesota and America. Hopefully, this can be a turning point of how things are handled going forward.”
District 48B State Rep. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn (D-Eden Prairie) cautioned that the Chauvin verdict is just a start.
“Over the last year, I’ve heard from countless neighbors in Eden Prairie concerned about racial justice and police accountability,” she said. “The guilty verdict in the Chauvin trial is only the first step. While more will be decided in the courts, most of the next steps for true, meaningful change can be taken by us, in our community and across the nation. We must continue to call out systemic racism when we see it, and not stop until all Minnesotans feel safe in our communities – no matter what they look like or where they’re from.
“In the Minnesota House, we put forward strong, common-sense reforms last summer in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and while some were passed into law, additional measures are still much needed. We will deliberate and debate the House DFL Public Safety and Judiciary budget bill today, April 21. I will continue to advocate for public safety reforms that hold bad actors accountable and build a better system where Black lives matter.”
Editor’s note: Eden Prairie Local News (EPLN) writers Steve Schewe, Brad Canham, Jim Bayer, Ryan Williamson, Jeff Strate, and Mark Weber contributed to this article.