Nervous anticipation turns to joy as former police officer Chauvin found guilty

NATHAN LAYNE and JONATHAN ALLEN

NERVOUS awaiting a verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin erupted in jubilation after the jury found the former Minneapolis police officer guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd during an arrest last May.

Throngs gathered in George Floyd square, around the intersection where Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died with his neck pinned to the street under Chauvin’s knee, screamed, cheered and applauded at the news of the guilty verdict.

The square has become a place of pilgrimage and protest since Floyd’s death made him the face of a national movement against racial injustice and police brutality. Protests against his killing swept the United States and the world last year in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s not Chauvin on trial. It’s America on trial,” Marcia Howard, one of the volunteers who oversees barricades and tributes in the square, said tearfully.

A 12-member jury found Chauvin, 45, guilty of all three charges against him – second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter – after deliberating for just over 10 hours in a trial that encompassed three weeks of testimony from 45 witnesses. Chauvin was quickly led away from the courtroom in handcuffs after the verdict was read.

The reaction of crowds assembled outside Hennepin County Government Center, the building where the trial was held, was also ebullient.

Tears rolled down the face of Chris Dixon, a 41-year-old Black Minneapolis resident, as he took the verdict in.

“I was hoping that we would get justice, and it looks like we did,” said Dixon, a director of athletic diversity and inclusion at Augsburg University. “I’m just very proud of where I live right now.”

Social media reported spontaneous cheering on the streets and motorists honking their horns in a number of major U.S. cities, including Washington and New York City.

Here are some initial reactions to the verdict:

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE AND DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

George Floyd’s family and community deserved for his killer to be held accountable. Today, they got that accountability. Always and forever, Black lives matter.

MINNESOTA GOVERNOR TIM WALZ

Today’s verdict is an important step forward for justice in Minnesota. The trial is over, but our work has only begun. The world watched on May 25, 2020 as George Floyd died with a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Thousands of Minnesotans marched in the streets last summer in the wake of his death — inspiring a movement around the globe. While many of these people never met George, they valued his humanity. They knew what happened was wrong. They called for change, and they demanded justice.

AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION

For the first time in Minnesota state history, a white police officer has been held accountable for killing a Black man. While today’s verdict is a small win for police accountability and may help heal a grieving community, the systems that allowed George to be murdered — ripping him away from his family and the communities that loved him so much — remain fully intact.

U.S. SENATOR RAPHAEL WARNOCK

My heart goes out to the Floyd family. Thankfully today they received something that approaches justice. Obviously, it will not bring George Floyd back. Hopefully this is the beginning of a turning point in our country, where people who have seen this trauma over and over again, will know that that we have equal protection under the law.

ADAM SILVER, NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION COMMISSIONER

MICHELE ROBERTS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYERS ASSOCIATION

George Floyd’s murder was a flash point for how we look at race and justice in our country, and we are pleased that justice appears to have been served. But we also recognize that there is much work to be done and the National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Players Association, together with our newly-formed Social Justice Coalition, will redouble our efforts to advocate for meaningful change in the areas of criminal justice and policing.

MARYLAND GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN

The senseless murder of George Floyd served as yet another reminder that we still have a long way to go to live up to our nation’s highest ideals. Justice has now been served, and we hope that this verdict will bring some measure of peace to the Floyd family and the community.

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