Since the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 millions of people around the globe have marched in protest of his murder, police brutality and systemic racism. April 20 was the day disgraced former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on all counts for Floyd’s murder. Hundreds gathered peacefully and solemnly posed for this photo in front of the Cup Foods grocery store where Floyd took his last breaths.

By Sean Yoes
AFRO Senior Reporter
syoes@afro.com

A ubiquitous feeling of fear and loathing in Minneapolis and around the world gave way to exhilaration, relief and even joy when Judge Peter Cahill repeated the word guilty three times in response to all three charges against disgraced police officer Derek Chauvin. The 12 jurors, four Black, two of mixed race and six White delivered the guilty verdicts after less than 12 hours of deliberation.

On May 25, 2020, a video that captured the horrific murder of Floyd, 46, at the hands and knee of Chauvin, went viral and horrified millions around the world. For nine minutes and 29 seconds, Chauvin, 45, pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck until the life literally drained out of his body. 

That video shot by a brave then 17-year-old Darnella Frazier was perhaps the decisive piece of evidence that compelled all 12 jurors to find Chauvin guilty of murder in the second and third degree, as well as second degree manslaughter.

President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris spoke from the White House on the Chauvin verdict.

“America has a long history of systemic racism. Black Americans, and Black men in particular have been treated throughout the course of our history as less than human,” Harris said.

People celebrate after a guilty verdict was announced at the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Minneapolis. Chauvin has been convicted of murder and manslaughter in the death of Floyd. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

 

“Black men are fathers, and brothers and sons and uncles and grandfathers and friends and neighbors,” she added. “Their lives must be valued in our education system, in our healthcare system, in our housing system, in our economic system, in our criminal justice system. In our nation, full stop.”

President Biden bolstered Vice-President Harris’ sentiments.

“Today, a jury in Minnesota found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd last May,” Biden said. “It was a murder in the full light of day and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism that the vice president just referred to. The systemic racism that is a stain on our nation’s soul,” Biden added. “The knee on the neck of justice for Black Americans, profound fear and trauma, the pain, the exhaustion that Black and Brown Americans experience every single day…Today’s verdict is a step forward.”

Former President Barack Obama also weighed in on the Chauvin verdict. “While today’s verdict may have been a necessary step on the road to progress, it was far from a sufficient one. We cannot rest,” Obama said. “We will need to follow through with the concrete reforms that will reduce and ultimately eliminate racial bias in our criminal justice system. We will need to redouble efforts to expand economic opportunity for those communities that have been too long marginalized.

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

The guilty verdicts returned against Chauvin, who was led out of the courtroom at the Hennepin County Courthouse in handcuffs, marked the first time a White police officer was convicted of murdering a Black person in the history of Minnesota.

“No verdict can bring George Perry Floyd back to us,” said Jerry Blackwell, one of the lead prosecutors in the Chauvin case. It was Blackwell who delivered the prosecution’s rebuttal of defense attorney Eric Nelson’s meandering and dubious closing statement. “But, this verdict does give a message to his family. That he was somebody, that his life mattered. That all of our lives matter and that’s important. And I also hope that this verdict…for all of us will help us further toward a road to a better humanity.”

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents the family of George Floyd addressed the media after the verdict was rendered, while he was surrounded by several members of the Floyd family, as well as a phalanx of other lawyers.

“America let’s frame this moment, that we are finally getting close to living up to our Declaration of Independence. That we hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equally…Well, America that means all of us,” Crump said.

“That means Black people, that means Hispanic people, that means Native people, that means Asian people. That means all of us America,” Crump added. “We frame this moment for all of us, not just George Floyd.”

George Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd wipes his eyes during a news conference, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Minneapolis, after the verdict was read in the trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

After Crump, Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd, who testified against Chauvin with dignity also addressed the media.

“The world (saw) his life being extinguished and I could do nothing but watch.  Especially in that courtroom, over and over and over again as my brother was murdered,” said Philonise Floyd, who has become an advocate against police brutality in the wake of his brother’s murder. “Times they’re getting harder everyday. Ten miles away from here, Mr. Wright, Daunte Wright, he should still be here,” added Floyd in reference to Daunte Wright, 20, who on April 11, was killed by a police officer in nearby Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

“We have to always understand that we will have to march, we will have to do this for life. We have to protest because it seems like this is a never ending cycle…I’m going to put up a fight every day. Because I’m not just fighting for George anymore, I’m fighting for everybody around this world…Today, we’re able to breathe again!” Floyd exclaimed.

In Baltimore, like others around the globe, may waited for the Chauvin verdict with great anticipation and expressed great relief when the guilty verdicts came down. Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott also acknowledged the work that still needs to be done.

Lisa Robinson of Washington, reacts on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Washington, as the guilty verdict in Minneapolis, in the murder trial against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was announced. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“My heart goes out to the loved ones of George Floyd, and I hope they find some healing in today’s verdict,” said Scott. “Regardless of this decision, more work remains to prove once and for all that Black lives matter in America. We must honor George’s legacy and join together to build an inclusive system that truly works for everyone,” he added.

Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who represents the 7th Congressional District of Maryland also responded to the Chauvin verdict.

Members of the AFRO staff react to the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. (Courtesy Photo)

“Today’s verdict in the Derrick Chauvin trial is a moment of justice in our country,” Mfume said. “The jury in Minnesota looked at the evidence and came to the only reasonable conclusion that could be reached: Mr. Chauvin murdered George Floyd,” added Mfume. “We saw the video and now we have an official verdict that recognizes the great injustice that occurred.”

Prominent Baltimore defense attorney A. Dwight Pettit offered analysis of the Chauvin verdict just minutes after it was rendered. I was hoping it would be guilty on all three…So, guilty on all of them is a very pleasant surprise,” who has defended a myriad of Black men who have been brutalized by law enforcement and represented the families of many who have been killed at the hands of police.

“This is the first time that a prosecution has had the force of the state behind it. We didn’t have that situation in the Freddie Gray case… So, this is a national situation where the police are being prosecuted by the police,” Pettit said.

“We had Ms. Mosby attempt to go against the police, but she didn’t have the cooperation of the police department. So this is the first time on a national basis where the police have in fact gone against the police,” he added.

Many members of the AFRO team watched the Chauvin trial from the beginning and several of them watched the verdict together.

“Righteous police officials stood up against unrighteous policing,” said AFRO managing editor Dorothy Boulware. “That’s the only thing that will bring about immediate change.”

“Tonight’s verdict in the George Floyd case is another step towards the true effect and culmination of democracy,” said the Hon. Wilbur P. Trammell, 94, former City Court Chief Judge, in Buffalo, NY. Trammell is the father of AFRO board member Dana Peck. Trammell believes “The verdict today indicates that a majority cannot rest assured…. because democracy and justice requires eternal vigilance.”

Long-time AFRO receptionist Wanda Pearson offered a cogent one-word response to the Chauvin verdict. “Bittersweet,” she said.

 

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor