‘Just the beginning’: joy and wariness as crowds celebrate Chauvin verdict

Crowds across the US reacted with jubilation, and with deep awareness of the progress left to be made, after a jury convicted the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of murder in the killing of George Floyd.

But in Columbus, Ohio, protesters marched as news emerged police had shot a 15-year-old girl during an encounter on Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier in the day in Minneapolis, loud cheering erupted from Floyd’s family members watching in an adjacent courthouse room as the judge read the verdict to a city and nation on edge. Outside of the heavily fortified courthouse, people chanted “All three counts!” and “Whose victory? Our victory!”

“I am so excited and filled with joy,” said 18-year-old Janiya Edwards. “Over the last year, I’d lose hope. I didn’t think they were going to convict him.

“I do feel a little more confidence in the justice system,” she added.

At the Minneapolis intersection where Floyd died on 25 May, a vigil gave way to celebration as crowds began to course down the streets. People danced in the streets and honked their car horns. “It’s just the beginning,” community members shouted.

In Houston’s Third Ward, the historically Black neighborhood where Floyd grew up, a small crowd gathered under a tent near a mural of Floyd to listen to the verdict as it was read on TV. People driving by honked their horns and yelled, “Justice!”

“We feeling good. We thank everybody that stood with us. It’s a blessed moment,” said Jacob David, 39, who knew Floyd and wiped away tears.

But the elation was tinged with wariness and worry that while justice was done for one Black person on this day, it would not be enough by itself.

The shooting death of Daunte Wright by police in suburban Minneapolis during the trial and of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago last month muted the celebration.

On Tuesday evening, the mayor of Columbus, Ohio, said a 15-year-old girl had been killed by police during an incident earlier in the day. “We do not know all of the details. There is body-worn camera footage of the incident. We are working to review it as soon as possible,” mayor Andrew Ginther said.

Hundreds of demonstrators began marching through the city’s streets on Tuesday evening, many sharing sentiments of exhaustion and frustration.

“We don’t get to celebrate nothing,” said protestor KC Taynor, according to the Columbus Dispatch. “In the end, you know what, you can’t be Black.”

Many who watched the Chauvin trial said on Tuesday they saw the verdict as a first small step to address centuries of racist policing in a nation founded on slavery. Some say they had prepared themselves for a different, and devastating, outcome.

In Washington DC, London Williams visited Black Lives Matter Plaza while waiting for the verdict and said just before the news came that he wasn’t sure he’d ever feel safe if Chauvin were acquitted. Williams, who is Black, burst into tears and doubled over with emotion upon seeing the news of the verdict on his phone.

“We’ve just become so accustomed to not receiving justice. I’m just so very, very overwhelmed right now,” said Tesia Lisbon, a community activist in Florida’s capital, Tallahassee. Lisbon was one of 19 people arrested by police last September during a Black Lives Matter march.

“We just got so used to not hearing good news, to not having the justice system on your side for so long,” Lisbon said.

Peaceful demonstrations went out in cities across the country, including Atlanta, New York and Brooklyn.

In Los Angeles, people began gathering outside Mayor Eric Garcetti’s home in the late afternoon with signs and music, protesting his new budget proposal, released earlier in the day. Garcetti, who tweeted in support of the verdict and of the movement, has moved to increase funding for the LAPD, disappointing advocates who pushed for the department to be defunded.

Many cities prepared for demonstrations to continue into the night. Businesses boarded up windows and secured dumpsters in Oakland, California, and Portland, Oregon, while San Francisco and other cities sent out alerts to residents notifying them of potential protests and increases in police staffing.

In St Louis, a police association made up predominantly of Black officers called the verdict important but “a pebble in the ocean”.

“This victory is small but historic. Yet why should we be thankful for something that is right? Why should we be thankful when George Floyd doesn’t have his life or his future?” said a statement from the Ethical Society of Police, which represents about 260 St Louis officers. “We all need to continue to fight for a change … We need change to end this systemic racism.”

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