‘We just got lucky by a few jurors’: Minneapolis reacts to Chauvin’s guilty verdict

Thousands throughout the city gathered in response to the verdict, remembering George Floyd and other victims of police brutality.

Community+members+and+activists+celebrate+outside+of+the+Hennepin+County+Government+Center+following+the+announcement+of+guilty+verdicts+on+all+counts+in+the+State+v.+Chauvin+trial.

Emily Urfer

Community members and activists celebrate outside of the Hennepin County Government Center following the announcement of guilty verdicts on all counts in the State v. Chauvin trial.

From outside the Hennepin County Government Center to George Floyd Square at 38th and Chicago, the crowds of people cheered after the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin was announced: Guilty, on all three counts.

George Floyd’s girlfriend, Courtney Ross, addressed the crowd gathered near the Hennepin County Government Center. 

“God is good. He proved that today,” Ross said. “Minneapolis needed it. I can’t thank you enough. Floyd can’t thank you enough. His spirit is here.” 

Nearby cars honked in support of the guilty verdicts. “The people united will never be defeated,” chanted the crowd outside of the government building. 

Twenty-five-year-old Adonis Rodriguez said there was a lot of energy around the Hennepin County Government Center following the verdict. 

“I really enjoy the fact that we’re all coming together,” Rodriguez said. “It shows that there is equality, there’s a chance for change. There’s a chance that we can all make history together.” 

Justin Ellis, who grew up in South Minneapolis, is working on a book about George Floyd and the injustices that Black families face. The guilty verdict was a release, Ellis said.

“It felt like catharsis or something, you know. I started crying, I feel like everybody started crying and hugging and chanting. It was amazing,” Ellis said.

Debora Desouza, a 13-year-old who attends Robbinsdale Middle School said that although she felt happy when the verdict was released, the results will not bring back George Floyd. 

“This is just the beginning, there’s still more to come,” Desouza said. “It’s just nice to see everybody coming together and getting the justice that we deserve.” 

At George Floyd Square, a sense of happy disbelief filled the gathering of around 400 people.

“It’s justice, it’s Black joy. I wasn’t hopeful last week and I have no hope in the system. But today we’re a step closer, and prayers work,” said Sarah Washington, who lives around the corner from George Floyd Square.

Before the verdict was announced, she said “I was nervous, but now I can go celebrate. But is it really over?” 

While she felt relieved about the guilty verdicts, Washington had other victims of police brutality on her mind. She said that other police who have killed Black people in high-profile incidents, like Philando Castile and Breonna Taylor, have not been convicted of murder. 

Kim Potter, who killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center last week, is facing charges of second-degree manslaughter. 

“Rest in peace Daunte Wright, we still got to get the [other officers],” Washington said.

Some family members of Naajikhan Powell, a man who apparently died by suicide at the Hennepin County jail in September, were at George Floyd Square. Powell’s mother filed a lawsuit against the county and Hennepin Healthcare, stating that they ignored signs of his mental illness and that the jail failed to properly put him under suicide watch.

“It’s crazy to think he’s not here. He should be here and could be here,” said Aleauh Daggs, Powell’s cousin. 

Daggs, and her mother and Powell’s aunt Amber Daggs, are not convinced that Powell died by suicide. And to them, Chauvin’s guilty verdict does not mean the end to the fight against police brutality and other injustices. 

“Feels like a sense of relief, because there’s justice being made. But at the same time, it doesn’t feel like you can trust the justice system. Because I feel like we just got lucky by a few jurors. There was nothing that was actually changed today,” Aleauh Daggs said.

Amber said that when she watched the video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck, it seemed like murdering Floyd was something Chauvin was trained to do. 

“Where do you go when you need help? When you know that [the police are] gonna kill you?” Amber Daggs said.

Third-year University of Minnesota student Sami Maldonado and friends initially came to the square for the vigil of Daunte Wright. After the verdict was announced, it was important for them to “be with community” rather than staying in their apartment, where it was not likely they would get any schoolwork done anyways, Maldonado said.

“I feel like the Derek Chauvin trial has impacted everyone of every walk of life, of every background in Minneapolis,” Maldonado said. “And it’s historic, and it’s important to be here and show up for the community.”

At approximately 5:45 p.m., hundreds outside of the Government Center began to march down the streets of downtown.

Throughout the evening, while Twin Cities’ residents celebrated or reflected, state and local officials hosted press conferences or release statements.  

University President Joan Gabel released a statement via email regarding the verdict. 

We hope that the jury’s verdict represents a measure of accountability and comfort for George Floyd’s family, his loved ones and the communities that have been impacted by his tragic death — and perhaps a welcome departure from instances where there has been no accountability at all,” read the email. 

The University announced it will move to reduced operations starting at 5 p.m.

At a press conference in the lobby of the Hennepin County Government Center following the reading of the verdicts, lawyers for the state’s prosecution, including Keith Ellison and Mike Freeman, addressed reporters. 

Ellison urged the public to respond and celebrate peacefully. He also listed the names of other victims of police violence and said he hoped the verdict could serve “as an inflection point” to bring about greater police accountability. 

“I would not call today’s verdict justice, however, because justice implies true restoration. But it is accountability, which is the first step toward justice,” Ellison said. 

At a joint press conference with St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, Gov. Tim Walz applauded the jurors, witnesses and prosecutors and also emphasized the need for systemic change to prevent further police murders.

“[The verdict is] an important step toward justice in Minnesota, but we know our work just begins. This is the floor, not the ceiling of where we need to get to,” he said. “It’s long past time the Senate moves forward and passes police reform to hold officers accountable for misconduct, increase transparency in policing practices, and improve police conduct and training, including banning chokeholds. This is the urgent task before us — not for tomorrow, not us for next year, but for now.”

At a separate press conference in Minneapolis, Mayor Jacob Frey said that while Minneapolis has been characterized as “on edge,” he saw it more as a precipice or an opportunity for change. 

“What will make our community strong and what will ultimately inform our ability to honor Goerge Floyd’s life in both word and deed will be our collective willingness to have that active participation in shaping our future,” Frey said. 

Samantha Hendrickson, Lydia Morrell, J.D. Duggan, Samantha Woodward, Emalyn Muzzy, Megan Palmer, Niamh Coomey, Hana Ikramuddin, Dylan Miettinen and Tiffany Bui contributed to this report.