MADISON (WKOW) -- Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial started Monday, and Black community leaders in Madison say it's a litmus test for how universal some American values truly are.
"The outcome of this trial will put America on trial about how we handle situations where we dispense justice to Blacks and how we dispense justice to whites," Dr. Ruben Anthony with Urban League of Greater Madison said. "We expect that justice will prevail, no matter what color you are."
Last May, Chauvin knelt on George Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes, and Floyd died. Chauvin is charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd's death. He pleaded not guilty.
Michael Johnson, the CEO of Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, said Floyd's death brought more attention to the movement for racial justice, and he said he anticipates the eventual verdict will elicit strong emotions.
"The world will be watching," he said. "The way that Mr. Floyd passed was unfortunate, was unnecessary, and I think that, hopefully, this jury will get it right and justice will be served. ... If it doesn't go the way that it should, I think there will be protests all over this country again. I think that people will be angry, and rightfully so."
However, Johnson said he doesn't want to see any violence in potential post-verdict protests.
"That's not bringing justice to those who are disenfranchised," he said. "You can use your voice … but going out and committing crimes and being destructive, I just don't think is good for our community or good for our country."
Rep. Shelia Stubbs (D-Madison) echoed Johnson's call for peaceful demonstrations.
"I ask people not to tear up the city that they live in," she said.
Stubbs said the Chauvin trial is important because of the opportunity it provides for learning and connection between local law enforcement and community members.
"It gives us, as a community, an opportunity to build our trust within our own local law enforcement departments or agencies," she said. "Only when community trusts law enforcement and when law enforcement trusts community will we see a difference."
Stubbs said she's hopeful her work on the bipartisan racial disparities task force will create laws that make deaths like Floyd's a thing of the past.
"We need to change our laws to ensure that we don't have another Floyd situation happen anywhere, especially in Wisconsin," she said.
However, the task force hasn't yet introduced any bills.