That was the message Johnson City leaders — including Mayor Jenny Brock and Police Chief Karl Turner — shared during a community prayer and unity gathering in front of City Hall Saturday evening as Black Lives Matter demonstrators protested for the third-straight day in the wake of Minneapolis man George Floyd’s death on May 25.
Floyd, who was in custody, died after fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the back of his neck for more than eight minutes.
According to the criminal complaint against Chauvin, who has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, Floyd was unresponsive for two minutes and 53 seconds before Chauvin moved his knee, with Floyd’s final moments recorded on a video that went viral and led to widespread protests in Minnesota and across the country.
“When you look at the video that I would say most of the nation has looked at, there’s only one conclusion that I can, personally, come to, and that is that those officers committed a crime,” said Turner, who also said community trust in law enforcement is “a fragile thing and it can be broken.”
“When you’re wrong, you have to admit that you’re wrong and they did not uphold the oath of office that they took and they did not protect Mr. Floyd when they had him in custody, and what they did led to his death,” he continued. “Not only was one man on his neck with his knee, but three others stood by and let it happen.
“If you don’t have the courage to step in and stop something that’s wrong, you don’t need to be in law enforcement.”
Brock said she didn’t want to see “our officers painted with that brush that we’re seeing in other communities,” but said “we have to step up” and that she feels “a lot of the violence is when people don’t feel like they’re being heard or there’s no action being taken.”
“I think in our community we can react differently to this, not to have the violence and all the things going with it” Brock said, a reference to riots that have erupted across the country since Floyd was killed. “We just need to listen to each other, and so that’s why it’s important to be out here — so we can.
There is, however, a difference between hearing and listening, according to some protestors.
“I think they listened, but what happens after this? That’ll be to be determined,” said Micah C. Taylor, who also spoke during the rally that followed the prayer gathering. “I believe they listened, I believe they took necessary steps to start change, but change is a process — change is not an event.”
“I think it’s very important (for our leaders to see us), but are they affected? Is it hitting their homes? It’s good to come together, it’s good to pray … but again I say it shouldn’t take a murder to take place for the chief of police or the city leaders and commissioners to come together on behalf of justice,” Taylor added.
Another demonstrator, Alyjah Gilmer, felt similarly — questioning whether their message was actually taken to heart.
“I’m glad to see his face — that he’s willing to listen,” Gilmer said of Turner. “That’s a step in and of itself.”