A jury on Tuesday convicted former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd in a case that set off impassioned protests, including in Milwaukee where marches and demonstrations have been carried out almost every day for nearly a year.
The jury reached its verdict Tuesday after about 10 hours of deliberation over two days.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, speaking at a hastily called press conference late Tuesday afternoon, referred to the jury’s verdict in the Chauvin trial as historic and proclaimed that justice has been served.
“The image of George Floyd dying is a permanent part of our collective memory,” Barrett said. “To move forward, we must understand violence against Black people, and other people of color, is real. And, while rare, there are people in positions of authority who perpetrate that violence.”
Milwaukee is moving forward with new approaches in law enforcement, Barrett insisted.
“We are focused on accountability, evolving law enforcement culture, and increasing community respect,” he said.
More than 11 months ago, demonstrators first took to the streets of Milwaukee after a video became public that showed Chauvin, who is white, with his knee on the neck of Floyd, a Black man, who died during the distressing encounter.
A jury consisting of six white people and six Black or multiracial people began deliberating the case on Monday after hearing lengthy closing arguments from both sides.
Prosecutors contend that Chauvin killed Floyd when he kept his knee of Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. The defense argued throughout the case that the veteran officer, who had since been fired, acted in a reasonable manner and was justified in pinning Floyd to the ground.
Floyd, 46, died in the street in front of a grocery store on May 25, 2020, as officers attempted to take him into custody.
Four days later, hundreds of protesters gathered at North 27 and West Center streets in Milwaukee’s Central City carrying signs with messages such as “Justice for George Floyd,” “Silence is Compliance,” and “No One is Above the Law.”
A summer of unrest in Milwaukee followed, complicated by the spreading coronavirus pandemic, as demonstrators took to the streets daily to protest racial and social injustice and police brutality.
Those protests have continued uninterrupted in Milwaukee, for the most part, since then.
“The death of George Floyd prompted many to raise their voices for justice,” Barrett said. “Peaceful petitioning for change is an essential part of American society. It is essential for Milwaukee’s future. Peace and peaceful protest is the way to reach the goals we share.”
The jury’s verdict in the Chauvin trial serves as a message that there will be accountability for those in law enforcement who commit illegal acts, Milwaukee’s Acting Police Chief Jeffrey Norman said.
“We need to continue to work on enhancing police and community relations, especially in our Black and brown communities,” Norman said.
The Milwaukee Police Department needs to refocus on training, procedural justice and true police intervention when illegal acts are being committed, he added.
“We need to work on healing our community and also respect the First Amendment and peaceful demonstrations,” Norman said.
On Monday, The Peoples Revolution, the group that has led the daily protests, gathered at Tippecanoe Park on Milwaukee’s South Side calling on the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission to vote to ban chokeholds, with no exceptions.
Norman said he supports such a ban.
The Peoples Revolution gathered again on Tuesday at 27th and Center streets, where they first came together nearly one year ago, as the verdicts were read.
“[Chauvin’s conviction] sends a resounding message that protesting, marching, resistance indeed matters and that it works,” the Peoples Revolution said in a statement. “The countless days and nights that we weathered in the snow and humidity is well worth it. The countless times we were inappropriately targeted by police departments and wrongly arrested for using our right to protest was worth it. The numerous and consistent phone calls, silent emails, marches and demonstrations mattered. Especially when this action is followed by the justice system acknowledging this work.”
But the group said its mission is far from over.
“We find ourselves at a crossroads knowing that while lady justice bended on the side of the people our work continues,” the group said. “It continues more strategically and purposefully to ensure further accountability is met through policing changes.”
The group said it is important to continue to draw attention to injustices.
“We celebrate one step forward for justice and a million more to march,” the Peoples Revolution said. “For George Floyd, his family, his daughter and his community and this country. This is the same justice we deserve in Wisconsin but still have been denied. We call everyone who hears us to join us. Another world is possible, and we must do more than we did last year to make it happen.”
Norman said there was a high level of concern had not guilty verdicts been delivered in the Chauvin case.
“We were preparing for whatever outcome but also hoping for the best and that we would see a peaceful outcome to all this,” Norman said. “I understand that there is a lot of tension and frustration, but we are a resilient community.”
The outcome of the trial shouldn’t be viewed as an end point, Barrett said.
“This is not the end of anything,” he said. “This is really in many ways, a very, very important chapter in American history and an important chapter in police-community relations.”