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'It's a start': People in Minneapolis greet the Chauvin conviction with mixed emotions

"It doesn't make up for all the lives lost to police violence," one South Minneapolis resident said. "But it's a start."
/ Source: NBC News

When Susan Scalf and Amy Powers arrived outside the Hennepin County Government Center on Tuesday to hear the verdict in Derek Chauvin's murder trial, their stomachs were in knots.

Scalf, wearing a black mask with the words Black Lives Matter written in white, said she felt anxious but also optimistic that Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd's neck for 9 1/2 minutes, would be found guilty of murder and manslaughter.

"That is what we want," said Scalf, 51. "Nothing less."

Both women said they had closely followed the trial and believed Chauvin would be found guilty because the jury had deliberated for about 10 hours over two days.

"We're here with hope that things can turn around," Powers, 55, a retired Minneapolis firefighter, said.

Less than an hour later, they learned along with the world that Chauvin had indeed been found guilty of all three counts he was facing — second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The verdict marked a rare rebuke of police misconduct.

Hundreds of people had gathered in downtown Minneapolis in anticipation of the verdict. After it was announced, crowds spilled out into the streets, with many people alternating between chants of "George Floyd, say his name," "Black lives matter" and "All three." Some broke down in tears.

Drivers blared their horns in celebration. Black Lives Matter flags flew from car windows. People of various races raised their fists in the Black Power salute.

People gather outside the Hennepin County Government Center after the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin, in Minneapolis, on April 20, 2021.Janelle Griffith/NBC News

One of the most famous photos of Floyd was widely displayed. The image, which his girlfriend Courteney Ross has called "a dad selfie" because of the low angle from which he had taken it, could be seen prominently throughout the large crowds. The photo was among those shared often after his death. When she testified, Ross laughed and cried as she described the photo.

Scalf and Powers, both of whom are white and live in South Minneapolis, welcomed the verdict, but like many others, said it was only the beginning of what they hope will lead to widespread police reforms and fewer deaths at the hands of police.

"It doesn't make up for all the lives lost to police violence," Powers said. "But it's a start."

Andrew Hartin gestures to the crowd at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue following the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial on April 20, 2021 in Minneapolis.Brandon Bell / Getty Images

Kiara Burham, 20, who lives in downtown Minneapolis, said Floyd's death motivated her to get involved with Restoration Incorporated, a faith-based human services agency that was set up Tuesday outside the Hennepin County Government Center.

"At first, I felt like it was beyond me, but now that I'm out here, it feels so beautiful to be a part of something so big," said Burham, who is Black. "We're just here to provide anything we can for the community and any moral support to keep everybody safe."

She said she felt a wave of emotions about the verdict — excitement, surprise and glee.

"This is the beginning to a new story," she said. "We just opened a book to a brand new story, and the world has no idea."

Jordan Draughn, 20, of St. Paul, said he was relieved that Chauvin was convicted.

"Some people thought it might not go our way," he said. "It’s just breathtaking."

He said he now has faith in the justice system. “It’s given me confidence to be myself," Draughn said. "It’s sometimes hard being a Black man in this world because you’re looked down upon by everybody, but in this case, it’s showing a real difference."

Minnesota Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who testified against Chauvin and fired him and the three other officers involved in Floyd's arrest in May, thanked the jurors "for their immense responsibility and honorable civic duty."

"The verdict has been read, and I respect the process and the decision," Arradondo said.

He also said that Minneapolis police would strive to earn the public's trust every day and night.

Floyd, who was Black, died May 25 after being arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes at Cup Foods, a convenience store on 38th Street and Chicago Avenue. He was 46.

A 17-year-old bystander recorded his arrest with her cellphone that showed Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on Floyd's neck as onlookers shouted at the officer to get off Floyd.

People gather around the memorial to George Floyd after the Derek Chauvin trial verdict was announced, in Minneapolis, on April 20, 2021.Deon J. Hampton / NBC News

As many as a thousand people marched through downtown Minneapolis on Tuesday evening chanting "Guilty" and "All three."

Some stopped at the intersection where he was pinned to the pavement — now known as George Floyd Square — to pay their respects.

Tiffany Doepke, 32, of East Bloomington, said she had wanted to visit the memorial honoring Floyd there for some time but the pandemic made it difficult to do so.

People gather at George Floyd Square after the verdict was announced in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin.CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP via Getty Images

"I wanted to come help commemorate the life, and I'm certainly happy with the verdict," she said. "It's good to see so many people out here and it definitely gets emotional."

Jennifer Alford, 46, who lives four blocks from where Floyd was killed, said she felt compelled to come out.

"The verdict was a step in the right direction and there's still a whole lot more that we need to do," she said.

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