The Twin Cities had braced for weeks for a riot, but on Tuesday, the crowd outside the Minneapolis courthouse buzzed with surprised, happy relief.
Boards covered the windows of businesses in downtown Minneapolis, and fencing topped with concertina wire ringed Hennepin County Government Center, which houses the courtroom where the trial took place. But on Tuesday 12 jurors found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murder, a victory for supporters of greater accountability for police.
St Paul resident Tyrone Baker, 42, standing outside the government building, had not expected a guilty verdict, not really. “But I’m glad it was,” he said. “It’s about time.”
Ben Crump, who heads the team of lawyers representing Floyd’s family, said “painfully earned justice” had finally arrived for them.
“Today’s verdict goes far beyond this city and has significant implications for the country and even the world,” he added. “Justice for black America is justice for all America.”
Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, said at a press conference that he had hoped and prayed for a guilty verdict. “Today we are able to breathe again,” he said.
People gathered in George Floyd Square, the intersection where he died, which has become an unofficial memorial to him, and outside the courthouse. The mood downtown was celebratory, with people grilling chicken and burgers, and passing out homemade chocolate chip cookies.
One organisation, Restoration Incorporated, which creates healing spaces, offered people on-the-spot aromatherapy treatment — “because there’s been so much trauma and pain”, said founder Connie Rhodes.
A DJ wearing a Black Lives Matter hat played music from atop a car with speakers in the trunk. Other cars honked their horns, and one man with a Chicago White Sox hat and a bullhorn yelled, to no one in particular, “We won today!”
At the same time, many people, both with microphones and without, spoke of Chauvin’s conviction as a beginning, not an end. People held aloft portraits of Philando Castile, a black man who was shot in 2016 in a Minneapolis suburb by a police officer who was later acquitted.
Baker spoke of former police officer Kim Griffin, who was charged with manslaughter last week after killing Daunte Wright, 20, in a Minneapolis suburb. She, too, needs to go to jail, he said.
Minneapolis residents Mohamed Mohmud, 27, and Ali Omar, 26, arrived outside the government centre just before the verdict was announced. They wanted to show their support for a conviction and to witness history in their hometown.
“Our kids are going to ask about this someday,” Omar said. “We don’t want to say we were at home watching TV.”
Even as they expressed relief at the day’s verdict, other names were on their minds, like Dolal Idd, a 23-year-old Somali American whom Minneapolis police shot and killed in December. They also were thinking ahead to August, when the three officers besides Chauvin who were present at Floyd’s killing go on trial. They have been charged with aiding and abetting murder.
“What happened today was amazing, but the other three cops who enabled it . . . something needs to happen to them too,” Mohmud said. “Derek Chauvin doesn’t get to be a sacrificial lamb for the whole Minneapolis Police Department.”
The verdict cannot change their day-to-day reality either. The men said they will still worry about traffic stops: routine for most white Americans, but for young black and brown men, laced with the threat of violence.
“We’re terrified every time we get pulled over,” Mohmud said.
But change is coming, community organiser Toussaint Morrison, an activist, told the crowd, shortly before marchers set off through the city. It will take more protesting, including at the homes of public officials, but it will happen, he said.
When people protested outside the home of Pete Orput, the head prosecutor handling the case against Griffin, “you saw white folks coming out of houses with their fists up”, Morrison said. “Because the culture is changing. The accountability is coming.”
Minneapolis resident Ashley Flanigan, 29, said that Floyd’s death had opened people’s eyes to racial injustice.
“George Floyd didn’t die in vain,” she said. “My hope is this is a step to get people moving in the right direction.”