MINNEAPOLIS — Cheers erupted in George Floyd Square as Judge Peter Cahill read the verdict: Derek Chauvin was found guilty of George Floyd’s murder.
People cried, hugged and chanted Floyd’s name. Some tossed handfuls of dollar bills into the air.
The intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue – now known as George Floyd Square – has become a makeshift memorial to Floyd and a space for community healing after Floyd was killed at that location last May.
On Tuesday, it was an epicenter of joyful disbelief. The verdict demanded by protesters and activists for nearly a year had been handed down.
“I’m in shock,” Jennifer Starr Dodd said of the verdict. She was in tears, embracing her friends who encouraged her to drink water. Her legs shook.
“We matter, you know, they see us and they see our pain. Today is the beginning of the healing work.”
She said the verdict gives her hope and that she is ready to heal and make a change. She said its a signal that her life and her children’s lives matter.
Denise Kanen comforted Butchy Austin, a horn player, who was overwhelmed and crying. The two have never met but Kanen said Austin is her sons age and she felt the need to comfort him when she saw the look on his face.
“It’s not sinking in yet,” she said.
The mood in the square remained joyful after the verdict was announced. Community members enjoyed provided snacks as a band began to play and move slowly down 38th street. Activists delivered speeches in front of the Cup foods where Floyd was killed last May. Many encouraged demonstrators to celebrate tonight but get back to work tomorrow.
Marcia Howard, a former teacher and organizer who can be found at the square nearly every day, led the crowd in chants of “no justice, no streets” and “one down, three to go,” in reference to the other officers charged in Floyd’s death.
Before the verdict came in, Howard said that no matter what happened in the courtroom activists would continue to hold the square until all the officers are convicted — one of their 24 demands for the city.
Raycurt Johnson remembered being in Los Angeles 30 years ago for the riots after the verdict in the Rodney king case. On Tuesday, the musician celebrated Chauvin’s conviction.
“Justice was served it was recognized that this guy couldn’t get away with murder,” Johnson said.
‘This means everything’:Minneapolis joyfully chants George Floyd’s name after Derek Chauvin is found guilty of murder
Kendra Waldauer came to the square earlier Tuesday, as she has frequently since last June. She announced to the growing crowd that a verdict was coming.
Waldauer and her son Zach, who is studying mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota, hoped Chauvin would be found guilty on all counts but knew historically officers have not been held accountable.
“It’s impossible to think that he won’t be guilty,” Waldauer said before the verdict was read, as she held up up a portrait of Floyd.
“I have to have hope.”
She watched the entire trial and said it felt like “gaslighting us over and over telling us he wasn’t murdered when we watched him be murdered in front of our eyes.”
“We’re experiencing history in the making,” Zach Waldauer said, comparing it to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Contributing: The Associated Press