HELL’S KITCHEN, Manhattan — Crowds nationwide have reacted with jubilation but also with deep awareness of the progress left to be made after a jury convicted former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin of murder in the killing of George Floyd. Cheers erupted from Floyd’s family members as the judge read the verdict Tuesday, and a vigil at the site of Floyd’s death last May gave way to celebration.
In New York, people marched through the streets of Manhattan; they chanted the common refrains of the last 10 months, a reminder that for many, Chauvin’s conviction is not the end of the fight for racial justice.
Chauvin was convicted Tuesday of murder and manslaughter for pinning Floyd to the pavement with his knee on the Black man’s neck in a case that touched off worldwide protests, violence and a furious reexamination of racism and policing in the U.S.
Tuesday night, New Yorkers carried signs saying “People’s Verdict: Guilty,” “Justice for George Floyd” and “No More Cop Terror,” among many others.
At Barclays Center, it wasn’t rage that overcame the crowd, but it wasn’t a celebration either.
Instead, those that gathered listened to various speakers, absorbing and processing the news of the verdict.
“Today, what we saw, unfortunately, wasn’t justice — it was accountability,” Brooklyn City Councilman Robert Cornegy said.
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said the guilty verdict should give Black New Yorkers a sigh of relief, but it’s by no means a problem solved.
“It’s hard for me to be celebratory,” he said. “I don’t think folks are understanding what some Americans have to carry around on a daily basis. We have work to do even here….Hopefully tonight, we can all breathe, and just be with each other, because there’s been so much trauma compounded.”
Protesters, too, felt Tuesday’s conviction was progress in the fight for racial justice, but not a victory.
PIX11 News’ was inside a planning meeting with the members of the NYPD’s Community Affairs team.
“As always, our team is one notch above the bare expectations right doing things at a higher level,” said Lt. Tarik Sheppard.
The plan is to be proactive, with Community Affairs officers on the frontlines. These are the officers with special de-escalation skills, known for wearing blue shirts, a symbol they are here to help and keep the peace.
However, things change should events escalate.
“If it becomes where it’s not peaceful anymore, Community Affairs roll into intel capacity,” Sheppard said.
When protests turned violent and out of control, officers clashed with demonstrators and the department came under fire. Officers were said to have been too aggressive.
The department is also adding another layer to its plans for protests, clergymen who will be rotated to stand together with cops against anyone who tries to turn their First Amendment rights into something criminal.