Racial Justice Advocates Cheer Chauvin Verdict

Mike Moen | Public News Service
Activist Willie Austin stands outside the Hennepin County Courthouse before the verdict is read in the Derek Chauvin trial. Photo Credit: Public News Service / Mike Moen

MINNEAPOLIS — In what’s being described as a landmark verdict, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted Tuesday for last year’s killing of George Floyd. Racial justice advocates hope it’s just the beginning of major progress for their movement.

The verdict, which included guilty counts for second- and third-degree murder, came nearly a year after Floyd’s death sparked global protests over police mistreatment of Black people.

Outside the Hennepin County Courthouse, local activist Artise Mayfield called the verdict a big step forward, but added it doesn’t simply erase the longstanding problems the Black community has dealt with, while suggesting that substantial reforms are needed.

“Actions definitely needed to be taken after this. It’s not even changed that he’s on trial, police are still killing people,” said Mayfield.

She’s referring to the death of Daunte Wright in nearby Brooklyn Center this month at the hands of police. Police officials there say an officer mistook her handgun for her taser when she shot Wright during a traffic stop. That officer has resigned and now faces manslaughter charges.

As for the Chauvin case, Mayfield credits the work of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and the staff he chose to handle the case.

Another Minneapolis-based activist outside the courthouse, Dantashia Murdoch, said the verdict follows an emotional year. She said she’s glad to see accountability now, given the trauma the Black community has dealt with in the justice system.

“Just looking at how many names, how many people have been brutalized by the cops,” Murdoch lamented. “It’s just heartbreaking.”

As the trial unfolded, reform advocates have renewed their push for the Minnesota Legislature to consider new police accountability proposals.

Three other former Minneapolis police officers were also charged in Floyd’s death. Their trial will be held later this year.

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