From Minnesota to New York to Florida, Americans triumphantly flooded streets Tuesday to celebrate and mark the moment when former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted in the death of George Floyd.
The largely peaceful demonstrations came as cities across the country prepared for possible violence that cropped up sporadically in last year’s protests after Floyd’s death, a landmark incident that sparked a reckoning in the U.S. over racial inequities and police brutality.
Some cities had already activated the National Guard as the Chauvin verdict loomed; others declared states of emergency.
Chauvin, who is white, was found guilty by a jury on all three charges in the death of Floyd, who is Black. He was convicted of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He could face decades in prison at his sentencing in eight weeks; at a minimum as a first offender, he likely faces 12.5 years. His lawyers are likely to appeal the verdict.
Floyd was accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill last summer and was seen on video being pinned to the ground by Chauvin’s knee for more than 9 minutes.
Minneapolis: Celebration outside courthouse, some residents flee city
A hush stretched over the dozens crowded outside the Hennepin County courthouse as the verdict was read.
“GUILTY!” the crowd yelled. “All three!”
Horns begin blaring across the city as the crowd chanted Floyd‘s name. “Say his name! GEORGE FLOYD!” Some cried and hugged at George Floyd Square, the site of Floyd’s death.
Jennifer Starr Dodd, an organizer with Our Village Reunion, was in tears, embracing friends who were encouraging her to drink water. Her legs were shaking. She said the verdict gave her hope and allowed her to feel ready to heal. She called it a signal that her life and her children’s lives matter.
“I’m in shock,” she said, minutes after the verdict was read. “We matter, you know, they see us and they see our pain. Today is the beginning of the healing work.”
Ahead of the verdict, some residents left the city – which had been the center of protests and riots after Floyd’s death. When the court announced a verdict had been reached Tuesday and would be read later in the afternoon, a flood of office workers left downtown, their vehicles jammed into the streets.
Thousands of police and members of the National Guard were activated, and Guard troops carried unloaded rifles at key intersections in Minneapolis. Downtown Minneapolis was largely boarded up.
Los Angeles: Flashpoint of 1992 LA riots becomes a place of celebration
In 1991, four Los Angeles police officers brutally beat motorist Rodney King in Los Angeles. Next week will mark 29 years since the intersection of Florence and Normandie avenues became a flashpoint for violence after the King verdict came down.
On Tuesday, the intersection was a place for celebration in the wake of Chauvin’s guilty verdict. A racially diverse group of several dozen people gathered to praise the jury’s decision and call for continued accountability.
A Black man in a Los Angeles Lakers cap danced on the street corner, chanting: “Get used to this, get used to justice!”
Passing cars blared their horns as demonstrators waved signs and Black Lives Matter flags. Music and the smell of fresh tacos were in the air.
“Justice has been done,” said Sherri Burks, 52, as a man walking by added “finally!”
Burks lives around the corner from Florence and Normandie and recalled the 1992 riots.
“I was right here,” she said. “Burning everywhere, stores getting busted up.”
Randy Dulaney, 62, of Pasadena, California, lived not far from the intersection. He came back to visit an aunt Tuesday and went to the intersection to join the celebration and “to show love back to the neighborhood.”
“Today we have more power,” Dulaney said. He wore a cap embroidered “I can’t breathe” and a T-shirt with pictures of late civil rights leader and U.S. congressman John Lewis.
Portland: Multiple people arrested as police declare unlawful assembly
Portland and the rest of Oregon saw vigils, peaceful protests and more violent clashing demonstrations in the days, weeks, and months that followed Floyd’s death.
Tuesday’s protest, which followed the police killing Friday of Robert Douglas Delgado, saw nearly 100 people marching in the streets to “celebrate George’s life” and go “all out for Duante Wright,” according to KOIN.
Some began spray painting buildings. Portland police said that several broke windows and declared an unlawful assembly, arresting multiple people, according to the Oregonian.
Mayor Ted Wheeler declared a 24-hour state of emergency after unrest Monday, allowing him to impose a curfew and take other measures if unrest occurred.
New York: Dozens rally for Floyd
Dozens of people marched from Times Square through Midtown Manhattan, snaking through the streets repeating the names of Black Americans killed by police.
“Whose streets? Our streets,” the group chanted.
A few dozen New York Police officers followed closely in tow as the group moved. At one point, the group stopped in the middle of an intersection and knelt down. “One conviction is not enough,” a man said over a loudspeaker as horns honked.
Protesters held up signs reading, “Justice for George Floyd is no more cop terror,” and “this isn’t justice but it’s a start.”
Atlanta: Protesters armed with long guns take to streets
Several dozen protesters holding portraits of George Floyd and large flags with the words “BLACK LIVES MATTER” marched through the streets calling for changes and celebrating the verdict.
The demonstrators gathered at a mural of Floyd in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood of Atlanta and marched through the city. Some chanted “guilty, guilty” and many carried signs reading, “Jail killer cops now.” A few, wearing all-black outfits, carried handguns and rifles.
After Chauvin’s guilty verdict:A trial for American policing, the struggle for public trust begins anew
Columbus, Ohio: Angry crowd gathers after police kill teen
An angry crowd gathered outside a home where a Columbus police officer fatally shot someone while responding to an attempted stabbing call. The shooting happened just as Chauvin was found guilty.
Police received a 911 call at 4:35 p.m. about an attempted stabbing. The caller reported a female was trying to stab them, then the caller hung up. Officers went to the home and 10 minutes later, the person had been shot and killed by an officer.
Hazel Bryant, who said she was the aunt of the victim, told the USA TODAY Network that the person killed by police was a 15-year-old girl. The girl lived in a foster home there and got into an disagreement with someone else at the home, she said.
Bryant said her niece had a knife, but maintained that the girl dropped the knife before she was shot several times by a police officer.
Protesters with Black Lives Matter signs, megaphones and a loudspeaker joined the crowd gathered behind crime scene tape about a half-block away from the shooting scene. About 50 people had gathered by 8:30 p.m.
“We don’t get to celebrate nothing,” K.C. Taynor said through a megaphone of the Chauvin verdict. “…In the end, you know what, you can’t be Black.”
Kiar Yakita of the Black Liberation Movement, said she is not surprised that another police shooting happened. “Why did they kill this baby?” she asked aloud.
Mike Fair, 63, brought an amplifier and a microphone, and expressed his anger, suggesting “there should be an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”
D.C.: Bob Marley music and celebrations outside the White House
Several dozen protesters rallied at Black Lives Matter Plaza, just across the street from the White House, to celebrate the guilty verdict. The gathering featured Bob Marley tunes blaring out of speakers and smiling protesters.
Meika Polanco, 48, said she wished more people came out to celebrate the verdict at the plaza. “Everyone has to mark this moment in their way.”
She and friend Jenny Baca, 38, have been attending protests since June but stopped coming after Joe Biden became president. The guilty verdict in the Chauvin trial brought them out.
“It’s a first step,” Polanco said. “It shouldn’t have taken this much to get one conviction but we’re thankful for it. We’re hoping it’s the beginning of a sea change.
“Like his family said, justice would be George Floyd is alive,” she said. “We’re not going to celebrate putting one more person in prison but we are going to celebrate that the people on the jury saw what the rest of the world saw.”
The plaza was a central area for protests after Floyd’s death last year and is home to the intersection cleared by law enforcement before President Donald Trump’s infamous photo op with a Bible outside St. John’s Episcopal Church, which was damaged by a fire during the protests.
“I was overjoyed. I was overwhelmed,” said Cheria Askew, 43 a Norfolk, Va. native who has lived near Washington since an Army assignment stationed her at the Pentagon. “There were mixed emotions. I didn’t know what the verdict would be. I was expecting just a not guilty on the murder charges and at least just him getting the manslaughter charges.
“For him to be guilty on all three charges, that’s big.”
Florida: Activists feel relief and a ‘small victory’
The unanimous decision by the jury has been viewed as a sign of progress by many allies and activists alike around state of Florida.
“We can taste justice in America today,” said Sarasota activist, mother and Black Lives Matter Manasota board member Sarah Parker. She called the verdict a “small victory in a very long battle” for racial and social justice.
“Having justice served in a system that we have little or no faith in, it is surprising,” Parker explained. “This conviction does remind us why we are in this fight. As a Black woman, with children, sometimes we need that refresher, these moments, to remind us why we’re doing this.”
Francine Julius Edwards, a local community activist involved in civil rights and voting rights, organized a demonstration in central Florida last year after George Floyd was killed.
“It was exhausting, and it felt like Black people were on trial proving their humanity,” she said Tuesday in reference to the lengthy Chauvin trial.
And though Cynthia Slater, head of the Daytona Beach NAACP, said that though the verdict “has been a long time coming,” that “it’s just the beginning of what we need to see in law enforcement and policing.”
Petersburg, Virginia: Racial inequity hasn’t suddenly been solved, community says
Initial reaction from Petersburg area leaders and citizens is that while they applaud the verdicts as correct, that does not mean that racial inequity in justice has suddenly been solved.
Lafayette Jefferson said Tueday’s events made him feel happy, but cognizant. The verdict may seem like a victory to many, but the Petersburg NAACP president questions the legitimacy the decision will have in future cases.
“During the George Floyd trial, young Black men were still being killed,” said Jefferson. “It’s not going to change anything for them and their family.”
Petersburg resident Jhovan Galberth, one of the driving forces behind the city’s peaceful protests last year, said the verdict re-validated not only the peaceful protests in Petersburg but all of them across the country that led the call for reform.
“This is a short celebrated victory,” he added. “We still have more work to be done.”
Montana: A verdict that hits home
Because Native Americans are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system and are victims of police brutality, for many in Montana, Tuesday’s verdict hit home.
Though Indigenous people account for 6.6% of Montana’s population of about one million, they make up 17% of the adult incarcerated population in the state, according to the ACLU of Montana. Native Americans also experience higher rates of police violence.
Erica Shelby, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, said her stomach was in “knots” all morning awaiting the verdict. She thought of Emmett Till, who was lynched in 1955 after being accused of offending a white woman, and King, an activist who was beaten by Los Angeles police officers in 1991.
“I was really anxious,” Shelby said. “But when the verdict was out, I just screamed. Thank goodness. This happens time and time again, we have police violence against minorities and people are found not guilty all the time.”
Melody Bernard, a Chippewa Cree tribal member who organized a Black Lives Matter protest in Havre last summer, said the guilty verdict is proof that activism works.
“Seeing this and seeing everyone who participated in the protest last summer, it’s like, ‘Hey, look our voices do matter!’ We all watched a man die. Someone’s father, someone’s brother. It could be any of our relatives. So if we don’t stand up, no one will,” she said.
Contributing: Elinor Aspegren, Ryan Miller, Trevor Hughes, Daniel Wolken, Chelsey Cox and Gabe Lacques of USA TODAY; Mark Ferenchik, The Columbus Dispatch; Samantha Gholar Weires, Sarasota Herald-Tribune; Kristi K. Higgins, Tamica-Jean Charles, Sean Jones and Bill Atkinson, The Progress-Index; Nora Mabie, Great Falls Tribune; The Associated Press.