by Robin Legrand
“Guilty!”: As the jury’s murder conviction against white ex-policeman Derek Chauvin was relayed on a loudspeaker Tuesday, the crowd in front of the Minneapolis courthouse erupted in joy and relief.
More than 200 people had gathered to hear the verdict for the man accused of killing African-American George Floyd, a case that sparked protests against racial injustice around the world.
“Guilty on all three counts,” a man announced over a megaphone, and tears streamed down more than one face in the crowd. “Today we celebrate justice for our city,” he added.
“I can’t believe it… guilty,” said 28-year-old Lavid Mack, who stood on a concrete block to get a better view of the gathering. He had not thought Chauvin would be found guilty.
A woman stepped out of the crowd, too moved to speak and fell into the arms of a friend.
Another woman, her eyes brimming with tears, voiced her relief: “Now we can finally start to breathe,” said Amber Young.
“This year has been so traumatic, I’m now hoping for some healing,” she said.
Fists in the air, a group of a dozen people started chanting, “Black power! Black power!”
Before the verdict was announced, one man was waving a bottle of brandy in the crowd, hoping to open it if Chauvin was found guilty.
The road in front of the court house was closed to traffic and several vehicles that were turned away honked their horns in support of the crowd.
In the past week, tensions had been mounting in Minneapolis, which was rocked by massive protests following Floyd’s death last year.
Troops from the National Guard have been patrolling the tense city and most of the businesses had boarded up their storefronts just in case unrest broke out again.
The court house itself was surrounded by armored vehicles, concrete walls and 10-foot high metal fencing, a testament to the sensitivity of the case that ignited the largest protests over race and police brutality in a generation.