The conviction of former policeman Derek Chauvin for murdering George Floyd nearly a year ago allowed many people across Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the US to exhale pent-up anxiety — and to inhale a sense of hope.
The fate of Chauvin — found guilty of murder and manslaughter for holding a knee to Floyd’s neck, choking off his breathing until he went limp in May last year — showed black citizens and their compatriots that the legal system is capable of valuing black lives.
“This may be the beginning of the restoration of believing that a justice system can work,” said civil rights leader Martin Luther King III, echoing a sentiment that many expressed on Tuesday.
“But we have to constantly stay on the battlefield in a peaceful and nonviolent way and make demands,” he said. “This has been going on for years and one case, one verdict, does not change how systematic racism has worked in our system.”
Alexandria De La Cruz, a Minneapolis mother, brought her seven-year-old daughter to the intersection near where Floyd was murdered, now dubbed George Floyd Square.
Along with the hundreds who gathered there — black, white and otherwise — De La Cruz erupted in cheers after it was announced that Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts.
“I feel relief that the justice system is working — it’s working today,” De La Cruz said.
Her daughter, Jazelle, sported a hooded sweatshirt that read: “Stop killing black people.”
Black Americans have seen similar moments before.
In recent years, they followed the convictions of the officers who killed Oscar Grant, Laquan McDonald and Walter Scott.
Still, some of these victims’ families continue to press for broader accountability from a policing culture that they say has never proved it has meaningfully changed or reformed after the convictions of police officers.
Keith Ellison, Minnesota’s first black attorney general, said that the jury’s decision was a reminder of how difficult it has been to enact enduring change and prevent the kind of upheaval and civil unrest that ignited the nation and the world last summer.
“Here we are in 2021 still addressing the same problem,” Ellison said. “This has to end. We need true justice. That’s not one case. That is a social transformation that says that nobody’s beneath the law, and no one is above it.”
Brandon Williams, a nephew of Floyd’s, called the verdict a “pivotal moment for America.”
“It’s something this country has needed for a long time now,” he said. “We need each and every officer to be held accountable. And until then, it’s still scary to be a black man and woman in America encountering police.”
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