Group gathered for vigil in Hutchinson shares message on police reform, racial justice

Published: Apr. 21, 2021 at 11:33 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Following Tuesday’s guilty verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, the focus for many is understanding what the verdict will mean for the country and what comes next as groups call on more to be done to address issues with racial justice and policing practices.

Organizers of a candlelight vigil held Wednesday night in downtown Hutchinson said while the verdict finding Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter charges in last year’s death of George Floyd is a step toward accountability, there is still a long way to go in preventing cases like this from happening again.

A group called Hutch in Harmony organized the vigil.

“(Tuesday), we saw a little bit of justice get served and then come back and two people since have passed,” said Esmeralda Tovar-Mora with Hutch in Harmony.

The group organized the vigil to continue to advocate and push for change. Part of how that gets achieved, they say needs policymakers to act.

“You can say, ‘BLM,’ you can say, ‘Black lives matter,’ you can post that black square on Instagram and Facebook, but until you’re doing active work to prevent these injustices, it’s going to continue to happen,” Tovar-Mora said.

in Wichita, Rise Up for Youth Co-Founder David Gilkey said the Chauvin verdict only serves as a start.

Gilkey was one of many watching and waiting for the verdict to come in on Tuesday. He said he was surprised that Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges he faced.

“...But like I said, I’m glad that (the guilty verdict) did take place and right is right and wrong is wrong, and (Chauvin) was in the wrong,” Gilkey said.

Taking in the jury’s decision, he said it made him think back to when he visited the site where George Floyd died. That site in Minneapolis has been turned into a memorial.

“It was emotional, very emotional, and to stand right there where he lost his life,” Gilkey said.

For there to be a difference, he said that takes everyone he looks forward a day when the African American community no longer has to fear encounters with police.

“(My) daughter, she’s about to turn 21 and she had the fear of police officers, and that fear has been in her since she was young,” Gilkey said.

Last year, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly created the Commission on Racial Equity and Justice. The commission released a report with recommended changes to law enforcement practices, but so far, little legislative action has been taken on those items. Later this year, the commission is scheduled to release another report on mental health, education and housing.

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