ASHLAND, Ore. — The news spread quickly on Tuesday that Derek Chauvin had been found guilty on all counts in the death of George Floyd. For some, the moments before hearing the words "guilty" were tense.
"Honestly, I was kind of expecting the worst and expecting a different outcome," Michael Miller said Tuesday, recounting how he heard about the news from a customer at his workplace.
Miller, a former defender on the Southern Oregon University men's soccer team, was a leader during the Black Lives Matter protests in southern Oregon this past summer. He's been helping organize other initiatives as well, focusing on educating people on the need for sweeping changes in policing.
"I had those tough conversations, you know, and continue to try to lead and just be there for my peers and my community," Miller said. "It's been a hard year... but I'm always trying to find the positives and today's a good positive, it's a good step in the right direction."
But the news the jury had found the former Minneapolis police officer guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter wasn't a moment of "justice being served." Instead, it was more relief a police officer had been held accountable for the death of an unarmed Black person.
"I believe that if justice was served, you know, George Floyd would still be here," Miller said. "For justice to be served, I personally believe that the whole system needs to be restructured and looked at for the betterment of everyone. Not just black people, but other races as well."
Miller says he and a "band of brothers" are working to help educate people in the southern Oregon communities, giving people a first-hand look into their lives as Black Americans. Education, Miller says, is the first and most important step to producing actual, meaningful change in our society. He and his peers are using social media as a way to interact with people during the pandemic to keep pushing for more understanding in the community.
"If you kind of check in with that one person or that group of five and you keep giving them pointers and tips and education, I think that's the only way we can really solve the true issue here," Miller said. "Just a chain reaction of love and education would do wonders going forward."