WIU student hopes ‘justice’ is achieved at murder trial

By AUDREY GNEICH, NEWS3 Reporter

MACOMB, Illinois – The country is watching as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial, facing three charges including second degree murder for George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020, in south Minneapolis.

“In knowing you can have a video, you can have a hashtag, you can have over a million people say your name and protest and do all these things but you won’t achieve justice,” Kwyn Townsend Riley, graduate student and student leader for several student groups at Western Illinois University, said.

She believed Floyd’s death was significant on campus and in Macomb and that it specifically affected black communities.

“People are only being seen as a target and I don’t want to walk around with a target on my back,” Townsend Riley said. “I don’t want my children to walk around with a target on their back, when they’re driving simply to go to or from a gas station, if they have a hood on, if they’re asleep”

Townsend Riley says she had given up on having a fair judicial system for justice after the outcome of other cases that involved people of color and the police – such as Breonna Taylor, a black woman shot and killed by police officers on March 3, 2020, in Louisville, Kentucky. 

“What has ignited this sadness that I feel for these trials is really after the verdict that was given for Breonna Taylor,” Townsend Riley said. “I remember hearing about it and I remember really just crying.”

Floyd’s death specifically sparked widespread protests and enhanced activism against police brutality and suspected systemic racism.

Townsend Riley had advice for anyone that wishes to discuss the issues and advocate for change in their communities. 

 “I’m choosing to invite my sadness, I’m choosing to invite my anger and I’m choosing to alchemize that into radial organizing and radical compassion.”

Townsend Riley said another important factor for this situation to change is having conversations with one another. 

“Erasing us, erasing the oppression, erasing the murders is violence. Silence is violent,” Townsend Riley said.