Omaha’s Black community notes step forward with Chauvin verdict, but not yet change

Published: Apr. 21, 2021 at 6:53 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - There are community leaders in Omaha who don’t believe Tuesday’s verdict in the murder of George Floyd will completely relieve the tensions between police and the African-American community.

Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin is now a convicted murderer, but last summer, Floyd’s death was felt hundreds of miles away as protesters here in Omaha took to the streets demanding answers — and change.

Some say one step toward that change came when Chauvin was hauled off to jail for murder. He will be sentenced in eight weeks.

“That was a refreshing surprise,” said Michael Maroney, president of the Economic Development Corp. “I won’t say I was happy about it because somebody had to die to get to this point, and that wasn’t necessary, or shouldn’t have been necessary. But I think that it did send a strong message.”

Maroney said true change will happen when good cops in the field take a stand and speak out.

“I’m like most people: All cops arent necessarily bad,” he said. “But the problem is too many good cops don’t tell the truth on the bad cops.”

Many who marched and protested for justice for George Floyd are really hoping this conviction signals a change is coming. But Willie Hamilton, president of Black Men United, wants to press the “pause” button.

“This is just one step — it’s a small step,” he said. “I need to see more before that I let my guard down to the point and think things have really changed.”

Decades ago, Maroney was on the campus of Omaha University fighting for change. He and his classmates even spent some time in jail, standing up for the same issues protesters were fighting for just last summer.

“What we were fighting for was inclusion, equity, recognition,” he said. “This was back in the ’60s — we had no Black organizations recognized on the campus. This is the campus at that time of Omaha University, but it’s UNO now. ... A lot of the issues that were prevalent then are still the same issues now.”

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