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‘This is a time for celebration’: Alaska Black Caucus reacts to Chauvin verdict

President/CEO of Alaska Black Caucus Celeste Hodge Growden watching the guilty verdict of Derek...
President/CEO of Alaska Black Caucus Celeste Hodge Growden watching the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin in tears.(Taylor Clark)
Published: Apr. 20, 2021 at 7:01 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Across the nation, millions watched Tuesday as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter after pinning a Black man to the ground in 2020 and kneeling on his neck. Here in Alaska, President and CEO of the Alaska Black Caucus Celeste Hodge Growden couldn’t take her eyes off her TV as she watched the verdict come down.

George Floyd died in May 2020 after Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than 9 minutes. Chauvin was found guilty of all three charges against him on Tuesday: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Hodge Growden said she was nervous that the guilty verdict may have gone the other way because it has so many times before in similar cases. As she watched the reports of fences and barricades going up around the courthouse in Minnesota, she said she understood why they were going up if the verdict came back as not guilty.

With Chauvin having been found guilty, she said it’s a time for the Black community to rejoice, but not be satisfied until there is real change and more true equality.

“This is a time for celebration — first of all,” Hodge Growden said. “But it’s not time to stop working because there are so many other issues, there are so many other murders that we still need to continue to work on, to address, to put effort behind.”

After the verdict, her phone was immediately buzzing with notifications from her friends and supporters. She said she intends on getting back to work with the Alaska Black Caucus immediately after this news.

“This is just one step,” she said. “It’s a huge step, but there’s so much work that has to be done.”

At the same time, police departments nationwide have been tuning into the historical verdict. Many were preparing for unrest no matter the outcome.

At the Anchorage Police Department Employee Association — the union that represents the officers — President Sgt. Jeremy Conkling said he’s happy to live in a country where the judicial system was able to serve its purpose.

“First and foremost, I am just grateful for the judicial system and the criminal justice system in this country,” he said. “I’m glad this process was able to play out and as always, we respect the rule of law.”

Conkling admitted that the relationship between the police department and the public isn’t perfect, but maintained that he thinks it’s relatively positive. He had no fears of the verdict causing any sort of unrest in Anchorage.

“I am proud of the officers at the Anchorage Police Department,” Conkling said. “I think we have some of the finest professionals in policing. And again, not to say there’s not things we can’t do better, but I think it’s important to sort of just recognize that while it could be better, it could be a whole lot worse.”

Conkling said moving forward, his door is open to any concerns or criticisms in policing in Anchorage. He also said that people should reach out to the Public Safety Advisory Assembly, and reach out to their elected officials whenever they have thoughts on how policing can be better.

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