Angel Smith-El admitted that she had some anxiety waiting for the jury to reach a verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin.
Standing outside the Hennepin County Government Center Monday evening, she talked of her hope that the former Minneapolis policeman would be convicted of murder in the death of George Floyd, a Black man — and the fear that he wouldn't.
"This is Minnesota — we haven't had much luck," said Smith-El, noting the killing of Daunte Wright on Sunday before the case involving Floyd's death had resolved. "So it's crazy. I don't have too much faith in the system and" — she sighed — "I'm hoping that [a conviction] happens. But if it doesn't, we'll be in the streets."
Still, the organizer with the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar got up and led a rally of several hundred people in calls for justice and chants of Floyd's, Wright's and other police killing victims' names outside the courthouse shortly after the jury began deliberations. Protesters displayed dreamweavers in the shape of large teardrops bearing the names of Floyd and Wright, and unfurled a long sign across 7th Street that read: "Justice 4 George and all stolen lives/The world is watching."
Protesters and activists called for action that went well beyond a guilty verdict, vowing to keep up the pressure on policymakers to strengthen police accountability. Minneapolis NAACP President Angela Rose Myers urged the crowd to look beyond the courthouse to the statehouse.
"You've seen the murders happen," she said, noting the deaths of Floyd, Wright and other Black men in police encounters. "And now, as the eyes of the world are on Minneapolis, our eyes cannot leave the state Legislature."
She condemned the GOP-controlled state Senate for not passing "any meaningful police reform ... I need everybody here to stand up because if it is not in the policy, if it is not in the laws, it's going to happen again, OK? Until we see meaningful laws and change, nothing will change."
Civil rights icon The Rev. Jesse Jackson addressed the crowd for about five minutes, recounting past civil rights battles and praising Minnesotans who fought them, including Hubert Humphrey, Paul Wellstone and Keith Ellison.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman "couldn't make up his mind" whether to indict the four Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd's death, Jackson said. "Keith [Ellison] indicted them the next day."
"Emmett Till spoke from the grave," he said. "George Floyd speaks from the grave. Brother [Daunte] Wright speaks from the grave.
"The whole world is watching," he said. "Keep marching."
Jackson urged the protesters to remain nonviolent.
"We're not afraid — we're wise," he said.
Maya Rao • 612-673-4210
John Reinan • 612-673-7402