LISTEN: In Alaska, relief and renewed calls for reform after guilty verdict in George Floyd’s murder

Protesters in the Justice for George Floyd rally march through downtown Anchorage on Friday, June 6, 2020. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Reactions to former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s conviction Tuesday for the murder of George Floyd included relief, a sense of justice being done and renewed calls for policing reform.

That was the case for Celeste Hodge Growden, president of the Alaska Black Caucus, who says there is still much work to do to improve racial equity in Alaska and elsewhere — and not just in law enforcement.

But, Hodge Growden says, first she breathed a sigh of relief when she heard the guilty verdict, because so often in the past, that has not been the outcome.

LISTEN HERE:

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Celeste Hodge Growden: When the guilty verdict was shared. It was like, Oh my gosh. Finally — you’re kidding me — justice.

Just all of that built up energy and exhaustion was able to release. But also, this is just one case. Because there are many, and this systemic racism is huge, and it’s going to take more than just people of color, more than black people to get a handle on it, to help eradicate it. To make change. 

Casey Grove: It strikes me that George Floyd’s murder was this terrible event, but it generated so much conversation, so many protests and put that issue in front of people’s faces more than ever. I wonder how you feel about that or what your thoughts around that are.

CHG: So that’s great that it opened the eyes of a lot of people, but we need more than their eyes to be open to what they witnessed. We need action. You know, talking about it is great, standing up, and with a sign, condemning racism is great, but we need action. 

You know if you are a person in a position of power. Use your platform to make change. Connect with a black led organization like the Alaska Black Caucus. Provide funding to help us continue the work, but not only that — stand alongside us and be that connection. 

For us, being about the action that is needed to make change is a whole ‘nother ball game. Yes, there was George Floyd. But we already know, again, that there’s going to be other George Floyds and there already are. And until we make change at the top, we’re going to continue down this path.

CG: What sort of things is the Alaska Black Caucus working on in law enforcement? Are there changes you’d like to see, and how is that going? I guess specifically we’re talking here in Anchorage about the Anchorage Police Department but with policing in general.

CHG: So I’m glad that the body cameras passed, with the voters voting in support of securing body cameras. I think that one of the things that has to happen is the community needs to be involved in the policy, and writing policy for those body cameras. When do police officers turn them on? I mean, we need to be involved in that process.

And then the other thing is, we need to recognize that the relationship with our police department and our communities of color aren’t great. There needs to be work done in that area. We need to admit that we have a problem. And we need to work to improve the relationships between our diverse community groups and law enforcement.

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Casey Grove is the host of Alaska News Nightly and a general assignment reporter at Alaska Public Media with an emphasis on crime and courts. Reach him at cgrove@alaskapublic.org.

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