(Bloomberg) — An air of celebration filled George Floyd Square in Minneapolis on Tuesday after a jury found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of killing the man it memorializes.
Cheers and applause erupted at East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue almost a year after the death there of Floyd, pinned beneath Chauvin’s knee, ignited global protests.
“We’re just happy, and we thank God for what did happen,” said the Reverend Jimmy Alford, visibly emotional. Asked what the verdict would mean, he replied: “We live one day at a time.”
The verdict, reached a day after deliberations began, marked a watershed for Minneapolis and a country rocked by a police killing that began one of the defining social movements in U.S. history.
Even so, some were quick to point out that a single verdict won’t immediately change things. “It’s not over, and it’s not like everything is done. Everybody is afraid of what would’ve happened if things went the other way,” said Steve Floyd, who isn’t related to George Floyd.
Two clergy members from Twin Cities Interfaith Chaplains wore orange visibility vests as they walked through crowds on the square.
“I’m relieved that he was found guilty of all three counts,” said Bonnie Wilcox, one of the clergywomen. “The evidence seemed clear. We hope that what is happening in Minnesota will be a clanging bell for change.”
Before the verdict was announced, the Hennepin County Courthouse where Chauvin was tried had resembled a makeshift military base. Fencing and barriers, National Guard troops and police surrounded the building, and large military vehicles were parked outside. Businesses were boarded up.
The measures were part of the city and state’s preparations that were ramped up in the wake of the police killing of Daunte Wright in neighboring Brooklyn Center. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz activated more than 3,000 National Guard troops, declared a state of emergency and called in law enforcement help from other states.
Walz, a Democrat, said at an evening news conference that he hoped the verdict would compel all Minnesotans, including lawmakers, to push for improved policing and enhanced social justice.
“What you saw today should and needs to be a pivotal moment in race and equity and decency across this country,” Walz said. “We’re not going to get another chance to do this. This is our moment.”
Back at George Floyd Square, celebrants said they would eventually turn to the need for police reform. But for the day, they reveled in the sense that last year’s wave of protests and marches had finally brought justice.
“Strength comes in numbers,” said Mohamed T. Mahamud. “Communities coming together are stronger than any bills that can be passed.”