Just after 4 p.m. Tuesday, a silence fell over the crowd of hundreds who'd gathered outside the razor wire that enclosed a heavily guarded courthouse in downtown Minneapolis. They pushed phones to their ears, trying to hear Judge Peter Cahill read the jury's verdict.
"Guilty!" they roared, all but in real time as Cahill repeated the verdict for the murder and manslaughter charges against ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. As a bailiff handcuffed Chauvin, news of convictions on all counts sent the crowd into a jubilant frenzy: cheering, waving flags, banging on bass drums, singing, hugging and marching through the streets of a downtown that had been mostly cleared out by workers at the news that a verdict had been reached.
Dominic Powell, 33, hopped on the back of a pickup truck and waved a Black Lives Matter flag. "All three! All three!" he shouted. Drivers listening to the news on their radios joined in by blasting their horns in elation.
"George Floyd isn't coming back to life, but this is the justice we were looking for," Jaqui Howard, 25, of Minneapolis, said moments after the verdict. "This is the first time where we feel like we're actually being heard."
"I'm just shaking," said her friend Prisca Diyoka, 26. "It was overwhelming all last summer, processing this. We fought for something. And we got what we fought for."
Mothers brought their young children out to witness the celebration of a historic conviction of a white man who killed an unarmed Black man while on duty.
"I just wanted them to see this," said Shamonda Lindsey, 33, standing with 10-year-old B. J., 5-year-old Noelle and 7-month-old Serenity. Chauvin "could have prevented this," Lindsey said. "It didn't have to go this far."
Yvonne Gbieor said her 18-year-old son experienced nightmares for months after Floyd was killed. "Thank God George Floyd got justice," she said.
For those who believed history would repeat itself — that the white policeman would go free — news of the verdict brought a strange relief. Some expressed newfound optimism in the criminal justice system, saying they never believed it worked for them.
"It sets, hopefully, a precedent for saying: You can't do this," said Joi Lewis. "You have to be held accountable for taking a human life. … The system has to be held accountable."
By 5:45 p.m., more than a thousand people were marching through the streets of downtown Minneapolis. They carried signs in memory of Daunte Wright, Philando Castile and other Black people killed by police in the Twin Cities and elsewhere.
"Now that we got justice for George Floyd, Daunte Wright is next," said Rubia Garcia, referring to the 20-year-old killed by a Brooklyn Center police officer during a traffic stop last week.
Lisa Clemons, a retired Minneapolis police sergeant and founder of A Mother's Love Initiative, said she believes it was "the right verdict."
"This is what they wanted and this is what they got," she said, "but the work still continues for strong reforms."
Chris Dixon, director of athletic diversity and inclusion for Augsburg University, said he remembered seeing the riots as a kid after Los Angeles police officers were found not guilty for beating Rodney King. In Chauvin's case, he said, the jury got it right. "I hope it's a turning point for state and national justice systems to address police violence towards Black folks," said Dixon, who is Black.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who testified against Chauvin in the trial, released a statement commending the jury. Arradondo called for "calm, safety and peace" as the city responds to the verdict.
"We fully respect and support people's lawful exercise of their First Amendment rights," Arradondo said. "We ask for people to be peaceful and lawful in their actions. Now is the time to use our humanity to lift each other up and not tear our city down."
As the city grew dark, the crowds dispersed from downtown. Some went to Brooklyn Center to call for justice for Wright.
Staff writers John Reinan, Liz Sawyer, Alex Chhith, Susan Du and Zoë Jackson contributed to this report.
Andy Mannix • 612-673-4036