Riverside President Ben Sells released a statement from himself and the board of trustees Thursday afternoon decrying the death of George Floyd, saying the Minneapolis man’s death while in police custody “saddened and angered” village leaders and that “this heartbreaking act has rightly sparked legitimate protests across our nation about the need to address systemic racism and the historic vestiges of inequality and racial injustice.”
The statement, which Sells said he will read aloud during the Riverside Village Board meeting tonight at 7 p.m., goes on to say that the community “must seize the opportunity for constructive dialogue to assure that Mr. Floyd did not die in vain. We will not be able to heal the wounds to our national spirit until we put an end to the cause of our suffering – unconscionable acts born of ignorance and hate and sustained by apathy and indifference.”
In a phone interview with the Landmark, Sells said that the statement resulted from a request initially by a Riverside resident of Police Chief Thomas Weitzel. The resident reportedly asked the chief to make a formal statement on behalf of the police department about the death of George Floyd, who died after Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while arresting him on suspicion of passing a counterfeit bill.
Chauvin has since been charged with second-degree murder, and three other police officers who stood by without intervening have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Sells said that after conferring with Weitzel and Village Manager Jessica Frances, they decided village government as a whole ought to make that formal statement.
The statement addresses the training Riverside police undergo on de-escalation, mental health, social justice and restorative justice, and adds that “the actions of the officers involved in Mr. Floyd’s death are anathema to the noble call to protect and serve.”
We strive to be a community of diversity, welcoming all who want to be part of our community,” the statement reads. “And we will steadfastly reject calls that would divide us or breathe clouds of hate into our village.”