Local officials and residents lauded the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd, while saying much more needs to be done.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said he hoped Floyd’s family found healing in the verdict, but said regardless “more work remains to prove once and for all that Black lives matter in America.”
“We must honor George’s legacy and join together to build an inclusive system that truly works for everyone,” Scott said in a statement.
Chauvin was convicted of all counts, including second-degree murder, in a verdict that came nearly six years to the day that Freddie Gray died from injuries suffered in Baltimore police custody. All of the officers charged in Gray’s death were acquitted or had charges dropped.
“The family of Freddie Gray thanks [Baltimore State’s Attorney] Marilyn Mosby for courageously inspiring prosecutors across the country to prosecute bad cops,” Billy Murphy, an attorney for Gray’s family, said in reaction to Tuesday’s verdict.
“They thank the good cops who did their jobs by breaking the blue wall of silence to testify against Officer Chauvin. They thank the jurors who delivered justice while the world watched. And most of all, they thank the great citizens of this country who repeatedly, forcefully and patriotically made their voices for justice heard around the globe.”
Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, whose department has been under federal consent decree to enforce reforms following Gray’s death, said “the actions and conduct of Chauvin not only failed to represent the oath to protect and serve” but were “shocking to the consciousness to every human being that watched that video.”
He said that the department would support residents who want to peacefully gather to mark the verdict, “just as they had done last year during the months after learning of the murder of George Floyd.”
A few dozen people celebrated the verdict by marching from the Old Goucher neighborhood to City Hall. Among them was Tawanda Jones, sister of Tyrone West, who died in an encounter with Baltimore police in 2013. Witnesses said West was beaten, but the state medical examiner’s office ruled that he died from natural causes and the summer heat.
Former Maryland medical examiner David Fowler testified as an expert witness for Chauvin’s defense at the trial, saying Floyd likely died from causes other than Chauvin’s knee on his neck.
“I’m demanding that they reopen my brother’s case because there’s no statute of limitations on murder,” Jones said in an interview.
It was the reaction to Floyd’s death that prodded Maryland lawmakers to push through a landmark package of police reforms, including rescinding the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights and creating transparency around police disciplinary records. Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed some of those bills, and his vetoes were overridden by the legislature.
“The senseless murder of George Floyd served as yet another reminder that we still have a long way to go to live up to our nation’s highest ideals,” Hogan tweeted after the Chauvin verdict. “Justice has now been served, and we hope that this verdict will bring some measure of peace to the Floyd family and the community.”
Shortly after the verdict, Linda Stansbury sat on a bench on the corner of Gay and Fayette streets in Baltimore and exclaimed with joy as she relayed the guilty verdicts to a friend over the phone: “He is guilty of all three counts!”
She later said she was relieved by the outcome.
”If he wasn’t convicted it would have been an injustice,” she said. “If he wasn’t convicted this country would have burned.”
Stansbury said she has followed the case ever since watching the death of Floyd on video last year.
”This was so important to us as people of color,” said Stansbury, who is Black. “We are so tired of being killed and them getting away with it.”
The Rev. Annie Chambers kicked off the march downtown with shouts of “Victory!” and “Hallelujah!”
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”We got justice!” she told the crowd of about 40 people. “The door’s open!”
Then they started marching with their signs and banners. A few cars trailed them slowly through the neighborhood playing music.
Jess Emerson, who carried a poster that chided white women’s role in electing Donald Trump, said she was caught off guard by the guilty verdict while waiting for others to gather near City Hall.
Emerson said she was driving downtown expecting a hung jury when she learned of the outcome.
”I expected that there would be a person who looked like me that didn’t think a cop would be guilty,” said Emerson, who is white. “I’m shocked that there is a guilty verdict on all counts.”
Like Stansbury, Emerson has followed the case closely since watching the video of Floyd’s death last year.
”I immediately thought of the impact of watching that video had on my Black and brown friends,” she said. ”White people are generally desensitized to police murders. And that’s not OK.”