WATERTOWN — It’s fitting that Gené S. Robinson would be watching her son play instead of the verdict of a now-convicted former police officer, considering her fight began last year with him as the number one priority.
Ms. Robinson watched the trial of Derek M. Chauvin closely, coming after she organized two well-attended and peaceful protests in Watertown against police brutality last summer. The first came after the death of George P. Floyd Jr., who Chauvin is now convicted of murdering last Memorial Day. The former Minneapolis police officer was captured on video, kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.
Since the beginning, Ms. Robinson made her efforts on behalf of her half-Black son, hoping to make any difference she could.
She knew there was a verdict coming in the Chauvin trial Tuesday afternoon, yet she stuck to refreshing Google in the roughly 90-minute time frame it was supposed to be read in open court. Her son was in the living room with her, playing and watching TV as she prepared for the same thing she has seen in the past with fired police officers accused of a crime: acquittal.
She refreshed Google again shortly after 5 p.m. and saw that a jury of 12 had found Chauvin guilty of all three charges lodged against him: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. She said she immediately broke down into tears.
“To see guilty, guilty, guilty on all three counts — he didn’t get away with anything,” she said. “To be able to see that — as I was crying, my son came up to me. He knows when mommy is sad. He doesn’t realize it’s tears from relief but it’s also tears from maybe, hopefully, possibly it might mean that I don’t have to deal with this with him.”
Ms. Robinson said she’s been taking more breaks from social media, but she did see the argument in the trial’s aftermath of whether the outcome was accountability or justice.
“I’m really happy that we finally did get justice, but it is so unfortunate that a little girl had to lose her father,” she said. “Who knows how many more cases would have gone on and on before we got just a little bit of accountability? Now we finally got that, so I’m hoping that will open the door for other cases for them to be rational.”
Now Ms. Robinson will continue to worry about her son — just maybe not as much.
“I’m very faith driven and I feel God called me to be the mother of a minority for a reason,” she said. “I can handle it and because I want to make a difference. I’m not saying that there are a lot of mothers out there who don’t, but I’m saying I take my position very seriously.”
It wasn’t just the verdict that meant something; all the witnesses and leadership in law enforcement who testified against Chauvin went a long way for her as well. The verdict was the culmination.
“The fact that it actually happened — this is going to go down in history,” she said. “This doesn’t happen. He actually had to take accountability for what he did.”
She said there’s more work to be done and she will continue to do it.
“Hopefully I’m able to help in any way possible because I don’t want my son or anybody else’s son to grow up like this,” she said. “Maybe in the next 20 or 30 years when my son has kids, it doesn’t have to be a cycle. We can kind of start breaking it by giving them accountability because that’s where it starts.”