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George Floyd's Friend Speaks About Chauvin's Verdict

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

And we are getting reaction from across the country tonight to the guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin. Let's turn now to someone who knew the late George Floyd well. Ronnie Lillard got to know him through church when they both lived in Houston. He is now director of Juvenile Justice for Greater Miami Youth for Christ.

Mr. Lillard, welcome.

RONNIE LILLARD: Thank you so much for having me, guys.

KELLY: Tell me what went first through your mind when you heard the verdict read out loud today.

LILLARD: Oh, man. It was an emotional - I was driving my car, and we heard the verdict. I had to pull over and wipe the tears from my eyes. You know, it was just very emotional.

KELLY: Tell me a little bit more about how you know George Floyd. Who was he for you?

LILLARD: I met George Floyd in 2013 when he was coming home from his stint of incarceration. And the man that I knew was a loving community-centered guy who was taking and using, you know, that part of his life to really make a change in the people around him in his circle of influence and really take responsibility for his community.

KELLY: And you stayed in touch after 2013, I gather.

LILLARD: Yeah. We had opportunities to do different outreaches. And, you know, I have many mutual friends where, you know, we both kind of did - we're in the music scene. My manager was one of his young proteges. I had a opportunity to even baptize his nephew.

KELLY: Oh, wow.

LILLARD: Just - yeah, just a lot of points of contact.

KELLY: Yeah. Well, I mentioned you work on justice reform in Miami, on juvenile justice there. Do you think this verdict will impact that work?

LILLARD: So, you know, although today is momentous, it's historic - it's an historic achievement of social justice in America - I think this day represents day one of a new movement of progressive police reform in our nation. George Floyd's life and this verdict gives us the opportunity to reapproach racial equality and community policing and try to get it right moving forward. And as it seems like this time, we have lots of help from compassionate and competent law enforcement and the right momentum, so I'm hoping so, absolutely.

KELLY: And can you be specific what exactly you're hoping for, what it would look like?

LILLARD: So, you know, you have, you know, the George Floyd policing act - looks like that's going to move forward. But then you also have different movements in different states, particularly here in Florida. You know, I'm a part of continuing justice reform with the state attorney, Katherine Rundle, and she's pulled together a committee of all people in the community that actually - you know, people like the chief of police and, you know, different stakeholders of the community to actually pull together some type of policy that can be enacted in Dade County but then also be enacted throughout the state. And that's been brought to the House of Representatives in Florida and also - as well as the Senate. And, you know, it looks like we'll have something there as well to be passed statewide in Florida. So shout-out to Katherine Rundle.

KELLY: Yeah. And, you know, working with young people, I'm curious how you have talked to them about this, how you have helped them navigate this, and what kind of conversation do you imagine you might be having tomorrow?

LILLARD: Well, you know, young people view it differently, you know, especially - I had the opportunity to work with, you know, impoverished young community. And, you know, their interactions with police officers are often, you know, a police officer pulling a family member out of the home, a police officer having, you know, caused (ph) discord with them, and, you know - and then the culture of, you know - culture of hip-hop and, you know, how that views, you know, policing. And so, you know, I think, you know, this shows them that, hey, your voice, our voice, our community's voice does matter, and it can bring about change. So don't, you know, recuse yourself from that process.

But then I also think, you know, for, you know - in Miami, it's different. We have officers who are engaged, who are - who care, who are - understand the different layers of community, you know, challenges and are actually involved. And so I think as officers - you know, competent officers and officers that care are more involved and take the frontline stance on things like this, I think it - repairs can be - it repairs community relationships and gives kids different viewpoints on policing, you know? And I think those are conversations that we'll have. You know, all cops aren't necessarily bad, but at the same time, you know, you have a voice, and, you know, use it.

KELLY: Ronnie Lillard - he's also known as the artist Reconcile - talking there about his friend George Floyd and his reaction to the verdict tonight.

Thank you so much for taking the time.

LILLARD: God bless you guys. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.