Apr 21, 2021 - Politics
A city's catharsis
Protester waving flag in front of Hennepin County courthouse
A view outside the Hennepin County Courthouse after yesterday's verdict. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Celebration and catharsis filled the streets of Minneapolis yesterday. After weeks on edge, many breathed a sigh of relief upon hearing Judge Peter Cahill read the sweep of guilty verdicts against Derek Chauvin.

What they're saying: "George Floyd isn't coming back to life, but this is the justice we were looking for," Jaqui Howard, who joined the crowds outside the courthouse yesterday, told The Star Tribune.

  • "This is the first time where we feel like we're actually being heard."

Yes, but: The jubilation was tempered by reminders of the work many still want to see to address issues with policing and systemic racism more broadly.

Many Democratic leaders echoed those sentiments.

  • "I would not call today’s verdict 'justice,' however, because justice implies true restoration. But it is accountability, which is the first step towards justice. And now the cause of justice is in your hands. And when I say your hands, I mean the hands of the people of the United States," said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.
  • "The trial is over, but our work has only begun," said Gov. Tim Walz, as he pledged to spend his political capital to get police accountability measures passed.

The big picture: It's too soon to say what if any long-term changes will follow. Proposals here face an uncertain fate at the divided Legislature and on the city ballot this November.

  • And in Washington, there's a sense that the guilty verdicts may reduce bipartisan pressure for Congress to act on sweeping police reform, Axios' Alayna Treene and Kadia Goba report.

The bottom line: For weeks, anxiety about what would follow the verdict filled the city.

City and state officials had spent months — and millions of dollars — bracing for unrest, closing streets and calling up thousands of extra law enforcement and National Guard troops. Last week's protests in Brooklyn Center following the killing of a Daunte Wright by a upped the tensions even more.

But in the end, they didn't even call a curfew.

  • And, even after darkness fell, the large gatherings of demonstrators at the intersection where Floyd was killed took on a lively, block party vibe.
  • "It's been hard here. We've been through a lot of stuff, a lot of ups and downs," Alfonzo Williams, an organizer and advocate working at George Floyd Square, told The Star Tribune. "We've made it through."
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