Like so many around the country and the world, I am both angry and saddened by George Floyd’s murder.
Unlike the many injustices that have occurred before, the murder of George Floyd has led us to a tipping point. This is evidenced by protests and vigils, not just across Central Florida, but around the world. We have witnessed a demand for change in the Black community and this demand for justice is being echoed by our brothers and sisters regardless of race, culture or creed.
Derek Chauvin, the officer who murdered George Floyd and the three others who stood idly by must be held accountable and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. However, I also know that these individuals do not represent all the brave men and women of law enforcement. Whether local, state or federal, I have had the honor of working with many of these heroes throughout my career. In fact, officers from our very own Orlando Police Department marched and chanted alongside peaceful protesters this past weekend. While sadly, George Floyd’s murder is not an isolated incident, we must still refrain from grouping the terrible actions of a few with the kindness and bravery of the many.
As we protest the murder of George Floyd and racial injustice in general, we must also condemn the rioters and looters. These individuals have descended upon cities across the country to take advantage of peaceful protests with the goal of causing mayhem and anarchy. The damage left in their wake has far reaching ramifications and the black community is directly hurt by their actions. Small businesses, many of which are black owned, are amongst their targets. These businesses represent the backbone of our economy. They are owned and operated by hardworking Americans who are simply looking to put food on the table for their families and their employees. The despicable actions of these rioters has left their legacy of hard work in shambles.
On a local level, the Central Florida Urban League has worked for years to bridge the gap between our community and law enforcement. Whether it is arranging for officers to meet with citizens over a cup of coffee, or honoring the legacy of the late Lt. Debra Clayton through numerous youth mentorship programs, I am proud of the strong relationship that we have built with the Orlando Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff's Office. Both law enforcement entities have worked diligently within our community for years to earn both our trust and respect. And I am proud of the foundation we have built together. We will continue to work alongside one another for the betterment of our community.
There is no easy solution to this crisis, but what I do know is that we must ask the tough questions and have an honest conversation with each other. The Central Florida Urban League will be working with our partners in the community to educate the public about systemic racism. We will also ensure to hold all those accountable who continue to promote discrimination or hatred of any kind.
The road forward will not be easy, but every positive action honors the memory of George Floyd and all who sadly came before him. As a society, we must begin with a common foundation: brutality, violence and discrimination towards any individual, person or group will not be tolerated. Our children will look back on our actions today as a turning point. We cannot let the murder of George Floyd be in vain. Let us honor him by using this tragedy as a watershed moment of clarity, guiding us towards a better tomorrow.
- Glen Gilzean Jr.