Portland faith leaders see hope in Chauvin verdict


Chauvin verdict 'can have a ripple effect'

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Faith leaders in Portland’s Black community described the guilty verdict against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin as a mountaintop experience and a sign of humanity that woke up America.

Chauvin was convicted of all 3 charges for killing George Floyd last May. He was immediately taken to jail and will be sentenced in the coming weeks.

Pastor J.W. Matt Hennessee, of Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church, speaks to KOIN 6 News in December 2020.

“This is a mountaintop experience for us to have recognizing that justice in America was given today — not just one count, not just two counts, but three full counts of guilty for the crime that was perpetrated upon George Floyd,” said the Reverend Dr. JW Matt Hennessee of the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church.

Pastor Robin Wisner of Under the Blood Ministries said he was hopeful “because my son is 6-feet-5 in Minnesota.”

“The semblance of justice today that we were able to receive today, we’re appreciative of it,” said Bishop CT Wells of Emmanuel Church.

Reverend Dr. LeRoy Haynes Jr., who leads the Albina Ministry Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform, said “That case represents a sign of humanity that woke up America.”

Dr. LeRoy Haynes of Albina Ministerial Alliance, a longtime non-violent justice and police reform coalition of Portland, in amongst the marchers. July 4, 2020 (KOIN)

For nearly 20 years, they’ve taken up the issue of police reform dating to the shooting of Kendra James by a PPB officer.

He believes Chauvin’s conviction is a game changer for their mission.

“This is a pivotal case, like Emmett Till in 1955,” Haynes said. “We understand that this case can have a ripple effect for what’s going on in Congress with the different bills for police reform. And we believe this is an opportunity for our nation to make that transformation to end police brutality, to end the use of unjust force and deadly force against Black bodies and Brown bodies and the mentally ill.”

Hennessee said the work to reform is far from over. But he had a specific message for people who destroy the city in the name of “justice.”

“One thing is very, very vital, as we’ve been saying to our brothers and sisters who show up at night and try to destroy things: Peace is the answer, destruction is never the answer. Peace and non-violence is the answer as we go back to the valley. Let’s go back with that message.”

Portland faith leaders react after the Derek Chauvin verdict: Pastor Robin Wisner, Bishop CT Wells, Reverend Dr. JW Matt Hennessee, Reverend Dr. LeRoy Haynes Jr., April 20, 2021 (KOIN)

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