April 21, 2021

Good morning, everyone.

  • Today's edition is all about yesterday's guilty verdicts against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd.

🗞️Situational Awareness, front pages edition: View the headlines from The Star Tribune ... The Pioneer Press ... The New York Times ... and more from around the world.

Today's newsletter is 943 words, a 3 1/2-minute read.

1 big thing: A city's catharsis

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. Not long after the verdict, posts sharing MPD's initial press release on Floyd's May 25 death — "Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction" — circulated widely online.

  • Amid the cheers, a common refrain emerged: "This is just the beginning."

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 Daunte Wright by a police officer 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."

2. The jury is done. Now what?

Derek Chauvin is taken away in handcuffs after he was found guilty. Photo: CourtTV

Derek Chauvin was whisked away to prison after 14 days of testimony and about 10 hours of jury deliberations, but his sentencing will move much slower — about eight weeks.

There's still plenty of wrangling left over how much time the former Minneapolis cop will spend behind bars.

  • Each of the two murder convictions have a recommended 12.5-year prison sentence, and the recommended manslaughter sentence is four years.
  • Since it was a single act, Chauvin will be sentenced on the more serious second-degree murder charge, which has a maximum of 40 years in prison, according to the Star Tribune.

How it works: Judge Peter Cahill will be able to consider several aggravating factors and could go above the the state's sentencing guidelines.

Some of the aggravating factors for Cahill to consider, per the New York Times:

  • Whether children were present at the time of the crime.
  • Whether Floyd was treated with "particular cruelty" by Chauvin.
  • If Chauvin, as a police officer, "abused his position of authority."

Sentencing won't be the end: Lee Hutton, a trial attorney not involved in the case, told Fox 9 that the defense will likely appeal, arguing that the jury should have been sequestered and because of comments made by elected officials about the trial.

And don't forget: There's still the August trial for the three other officers at the scene when Floyd died.

3. Minneapolis in photos

People react after the verdict was read in the Derek Chauvin trial. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

a woman places flowers at the grave of george floyd
A woman lays flowers at a memorial for George Floyd. Photo: Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
george floyd square
People gather at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

đź“· See more photos from across the country.

4. Quote of the day: "Today, we are able to breathe"

Philonise Floyd, Attorney Ben Crump and Reverend Al Sharpton react following the verdict. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP/Getty Images

"I'm not just fighting for George anymore. I'm fighting for everybody around this world. I get calls, I get DMs, people from Brazil, from Ghana, from Italy, London, Germany. They're all saying the same thing: 'We won't be able to breathe until you're able to breathe.' Today, we are able to breathe again."
— Philonise Floyd, George's brother, after the verdict was read

Go deeper: What President Biden told the Floyd family ... Reactions from Barack Obama, Tim Walz and other state and national leaders

5. The nation reacts

A man reacts as people rally at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

News of the verdict reverberated across the nation and the world yesterday.

  • From Brooklyn to the Bay Area, demonstrators filled the streets after the charges were read.
  • In cities like Denver and Des Moines, activists reiterated the need for more action on police accountability.
  • "This verdict should serve as a wake-up call to police departments," said Robert Davis, vice president of the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance and the head of a task force to reimagine policing in Denver, told our colleagues there.

Axios' Russ Contreras was on a flight from Dallas to Washington — somewhere over Tennessee — when the verdict was announced.

  • As the guilty verdicts were read, several Black passengers hugged. Tawney Coburn, 49, nodded her head and wiped away a tear.
  • "I'm relieved," she told him. "I'm a mother of two Black sons." In American justice, she said, "non-punishment is all too common" when police kill Black men.
  • "Honestly, this wasn't just Black people speaking out against injustice. A large part of America was watching and denouncing," she added.

6. 1 Prince song to go

Prince performs on stage on the Hit N Run-Parade Tour at Wembley Arena, London in August 1986. Photo: Michael Putland/Getty Images

We'll end with the words of Prince, who died five years ago today, from his song "Baltimore," released in 2015 to support the Black Lives Matter movement after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody:

Nobody got in nobody's way
So I guess you could say it was a good day
At least a little better than the day in Baltimore
Does anybody hear us pray
For Michael Brown or Freddie Gray?
Peace is more than the absence of war

Enjoy your Wednesday, folks. We'll see you back here tomorrow.