UK students, president react to verdict in Derek Chauvin trial

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDKY) – As the country waited for the verdict, many students on UK’s campus stopped what they were doing to watch coverage on their phones or laptops. It even sparked a small gathering of student scoming together.

Outside, it was business as usual Tuesday on UK’s campus. But inside the student center, Lamontae Shively waited with bated breath on the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.

“It’s kind of scary because to me and I feel like to a lot of other people, it’s kind of like open and shut. But to the fact we have to wait and see and hope that what I believe is the right decision is made,” Shively said.

It’s a moment in a movement that Shively says he’s closely watched play out.

“I watched probably 70% of the trial. And even when the defense was presenting stuff, it was hard to watch,” Shively said.

As the verdict got closer, students gathered around a phone watching to hear what the jury said.

The verdict came across a little overwhelming for Destiny French, who says this gives her courage to use a voice she was sometimes afraid to.

“For the longest time I had the hardest time talking about civil rights and social justice because I never knew how people would take it. But now after seeing that, I’m honestly speechless because I’ve seen it… I’m sorry, I’m going to start crying,” French said.

They’re tears that have been shed before, but this time, it feels different—like a step forward.

“You can get kind of like one win I guess you get here. But there’s still plenty of other instances where this happens and just because this happened doesn’t mean we can let our foot off the gas. There’s still more work to be done you know,” Shively said.

University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto released this statement before the decision was announced:

Dear Campus Community,

A jury is about to deliver a verdict in the killing last summer of George Floyd. Irrespective of this case’s resolution, we have been reminded, repeatedly, that so much pain remains unresolved, as we grapple with a necessary national and community reckoning around issues of race and racism.

In the last several weeks, killings of people of color have occurred in Chicago, again, in Minnesota and in Atlanta. Only a few weeks ago, we solemnly marked the one-year anniversary of the killing of our former student, Breonna Taylor.

These deaths shake Kentuckians to our cores and have prompted changes to laws and policies across our state. Even so, there remain legitimate concerns about whether enough is being done. On our own campus, we’ve been reminded recently that vile symbols of hatred and intolerance — the flashing of a Nazi symbol at a student of Jewish faith — can take root here, too. We are not immune from baseless hostility or ignorance.

The sense of loss and concern about who we are and where we are as a country can be overwhelming at times. I can’t imagine what our neighbors and loved ones of color must feel and how traumatic and exhausting these individual and collective experiences must be for them.

There’s no way for so many of us to fully understand, but we can be there — to listen, to offer support, to provide space and to commit to change. And toward those goals of understanding and compassion, I have two thoughts:

One, we must fully support each other — now and always. For people impacted so directly by these searing experiences, there are places to find help and healing

Second, we must continually lean into what we are fundamentally about: people and ideas. That’s what we bring to these issues: people committed to the power of ideas to create change in hearts and minds; to force reforms in policies and programs; and to create spaces for all people to debate and encourage, dream and aspire.

The word university is derived from Latin roots, meaning “a whole.” In its fullest sense, the idea is to communicate that a university is a community of teachers, scholars, students and staff. We are many individuals, many perspectives and identities, bound together as one — many people, one community, seeking to make our world better.

To this task, of course, we are imperfect people operating in a deeply imperfect and flawed world. But that doesn’t mean we can’t ask ourselves every day how we, as a community, can make the world a little better tomorrow than it is today.

That is what we want for ourselves and each other. And it is what we want for our students, who we are preparing not only to compete in the world, but to change it. We are providing them with the tools and broad perspectives to lead lives of meaning and purpose, compassion and empathy, understanding, conciliation and respect.

My hope for us is that the events of this past year compel us to reflect on our shared humanity, our mission and our purpose. Our hope must be that the trajectory of these tragedies doesn’t define us or lead us into despair and cynicism. Rather, we must find some way to renew our commitment to the ideals that bring us together — as many people, one community.

Eli Capilouto

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