Black Lives Matter of Wilmington applauds Chauvin’s conviction, calls for more accountability

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — One day after former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, the Wilmington chapter of Black Lives Matter held an event to share their reaction.

Several dozen people gathered downtown at Innes Park Wednesday evening as organizers spoke out on the steps of Thalian Hall.

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The group applauded the guilty verdict, but says more needs to be done to hold law enforcement accountable.

“We’re very pleased with the verdict but there’s still so much work that needs to be done,” said Wilmington Black Lives Matter leader Sonya Patrick. “In the state of North Carolina, no officer has ever been charged, let alone convicted of killing an unarmed black man.”

A diverse crowd listening intently as Patrick and several other organizers spoke out about the movement.

“It was a lot of spirit, a lot of passion, a very positive environment, it always is,” said organization member Paul Gainey. “We’re 100 percent peaceful all the time and at the same time we strive for impact.”

One of those impacts is calling on lawmakers to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

“We hope that the current administration will stand behind that bill, because we don’t feel safe with law enforcement,” Patrick said. “Police brutality and excessive force has been going on for over a century now and people are sick and tired of being sick and tired. The only thing different between now and 1950 are the cell phones. Had it not been for a cell phone, we would not have known what happened to George Floyd.”

Attendee Heather Cwiklinski hopes more law enforcement accountability would make the state and country a safer place for her family.

“My husband is African American, I have two biracial children,” Cwiklinski said. “This is a pivotal moment, I’m hoping that we can keep the momentum going and make real change so that my children heaven forbid won’t be a hashtag.”

Lynn Shoemaker of Women Organizing Wilmington was one of the featured speakers at the event. She drew attention to some proposed bills at the state level that she says could make peaceful protesting more difficult. Those include HB 333, HB 321, SB 300, and SB 238.

HB 333 would implement mandatory expulsion or suspension for University of North Carolina students caught causing damage during demonstrations.

HB 321 would prevent public officials from telling law enforcement to stand down during demonstrations.