The news that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin had been found guilty on all three counts in the George Floyd murder trial quickly spread – from the public square outside of the Hennepin County Government Center to communities across America.
And for many African Americans, their comments confirmed their relief – if not jubilation – that justice had finally prevailed on behalf of a slain Black man.
“I love it but we aren’t done yet,” said Rodney Floyd, one of George Floyd’s brothers who spoke during a press conference surrounded by family members and other supporters.
Keith Ellison, the attorney general of Minnesota, thanked both the Floyd family and his legal staff before encouraging protestors to continue to express their views, albeit peacefully.
“George Floyd mattered – he mattered because he was a human being – and what happened on that street was wrong,” Ellison said. “Regular people from all walks of life answered the call and served in a landmark trial.”
“Justice has been served but we still face racism every day in the Black community,” said Nikky Brown, a behavioral therapist from Maryland. “And while the verdict this time was guilty, Black people are found guilty every day simply because of the color of our skin.”
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“Here in Baltimore, we’re living in the post-traumatic era of Freddie Gray and we’ve never reached resolution. There’s still a wound that has not healed,” she said.
Nevel Adams, 53, a District resident and high school English teacher, said, “I’m relieved because of the verdict but it’s only a sliver of satisfaction in the whole scheme of things. But until we address systemic racism which produces police officers like Chauvin, very little will change.”
Marion Gray-Hopkins sat pensively with her 30-year-old grandson in her Upper Marlboro home as the two listened to the verdict. She wore a T-shirt which bore the image of her son, Gary Hopkins. Jr., who died in 1999 at the hands of Prince George’s County police officers.
“I wore this shirt without realizing that the verdict would be announced today,” she said. “Once I heard it, I said to [my son] ‘Baby, we got one.’ Whenever we get some semblance of accountability, I feel a sense of justice for all. Still, I’m cautiously optimistic in saying this could be the start of long-overdue and much-needed change.”
Gray-Hopkins, who leads the locally-based Coalition of Concerned Mothers, said the next step must be for Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The act, approved last month in the House by a vote of 220-212 with no Republican support, continues with discussion in the Senate.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen agreed.
“Nothing will bring George Floyd back or heal the pain that his family and loved ones continue to experience,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “While today’s verdict was just, we must think of the Black Americans who have never received justice. We must move with urgency to confront and defeat systemic racism in all its forms and Congress must act immediately to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.”
Some posted their reactions to the verdict on social media.
“GUILTY. GUILTY. GUILTY. THANK YOU,” Del. Vanessa Atterbeary (D-Howard County), vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said on Twitter.
Atterbeary helped lead Maryland lawmakers in Annapolis to a major police reform package that included: police misconduct lawsuits double from $400,000 to $890,000; residents to sit on police accountability boards to recommend administrative charges against officers; and for all county and Baltimore City police departments to equip their officers with body cameras.
Another law approved will allow greater public access for disciplinary records and complaints against police officers. It’s named after Anton Black, 19, killed by police on the Eastern Shore. One of the officers involved in Black’s death received over two dozen use of force complaints while previously worked in Delaware.
“The next steps are to see jurisdictions across the country in taking a proactive stance to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again,” said Del. Nicole A. Williams (D-District 22) of Greenbelt, a member of the House Judiciary Committee that worked on police reform legislation.
“Deadly force should be a last resort and not the first resort,” she said.