KANSAS CITY, Mo. – All eyes are on Minneapolis as the trial begins for former police officer Derek Chauvin, charged with killing George Floyd.
Floyd died May 25, 2020, after Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds during an arrest. His death and the video of it sparked outrage and protests all around the country.
“It’s like watching a member of my family just dying in front of my eyes, begging for his life,” Kansas City protestor Brandi Olachi said.
In the Kansas City metro, the Floyd protests hit closer to home as the area also dealt with deaths of Cameron Lamb and Donnie Sanders, both killed by police officers.
Although the officer who shot Lamb is facing charges, last week, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced she would not file charges against the officer who killed Sanders during a traffic stop.
“Locally there are a number of people have been killed, murdered and hurt by KCPD, and there has been zero accountability,” said Justice Gatson, founder of Reale Justice Network. “So this case is really important. People want to see accountability on some levels. We’re wondering if another state, another city has to lead by example and show how we can hold these officers accountable.”
Gatson said Floyd’s case is like so many other unarmed Black men killed by police who don’t get the same recognition.
“We have had these long-standing issues in our community as well. They aren’t highlighted. They aren’t on national news, but the parents and family members, they suffer just the same,” Gatson said.
“This issue has been such an issue in our community, we’ve been dealing with this since policing began, moving from slave patrols, to police officers. If you really dig in, you can see the history of why it’s been this way for such a long time.”
As a local advocate who helped with summer protests, Gatson said Floyd’s death opened the door for conversations about diversity, equality and excessive force and police brutality in the country.
Many police stations updated policies and corporate offices have been focused on making diverse hires.
But with Chauvin’s trial set to begin, Gatson said there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.
“We really want accountability. We will continue to fight for it,” she said. “The policies that you see that came out of what happened with George Floyd, they were actually things that organizers had been working on for years. It was just the moment. George Floyd provided the moment to release those things.”
Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Jury selection for the trial is expected to begin Tuesday.