Celebration was in the air at George Floyd Square as Derek Chauvin verdict read

Celebration was in the air at George Floyd Square as Derek Chauvin verdict read

In many ways, everything seemed typical Tuesday afternoon at East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis.

People sporadically chanted George Floyd’s name. Regulars sat around a bonfire in a former gas station parking lot. Food was offered up for free.

But an uneasy buzz hovered around George Floyd Square as the verdict was to be announced to the world soon. The gravity of the decision and the not-knowing was on everyone’s minds.

“I just hope they find him guilty,” Martin Dosh, who lives nearby, said as he patted his dog by the fire. “I mean, it’s so obvious.”

Everyone knew what was coming. And as the clock ticked past 3 p.m., more people of all ages and colors gathered to be part of history — good or bad — at the spot where Floyd took his last breath on May 25.

“I’m tense and hopeful,” neighborhood resident Meghan Olsen said, while her young daughter sifted through free books in a small library kiosk. “It’s good to be with people.”

Michael Carothers and his girlfriend, Krystal Eisenbraun, who both were wearing matching “Black Lives Matter” long-sleeved T-shirts, hovered over his cellphone, watching a TV broadcast, waiting for the word.

“It’s all so heartbreaking,” Carothers, 37, said. “I want justice to be served.”

Demonstrators gather outside Cup Foods to celebrate the murder conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

“I’m definitely here with a heavy heart,” Eisenbraun, 20, said. “I’m ready to see what they’re going to say.”

And as the buzz grew louder, it suddenly came to a halt.

“The verdict is in! The verdict is in!” many in the crowd yelled.

As people got the word from their phones, yells of “Guilty!” rang out among the crowd. People hugged. Some cried.

Sixty-year-old Leon Lyons jumped on top of a bench that was just feet from where Floyd was murdered outside Cup Foods, raised his arms in the air and yelled to the crowd, “We shook up the world!”

Lyons lives just three blocks away and has been a resident of the Powderhorn Park neighborhood for 50 years. And he’s been a regular at George Floyd Square since the 46-year-old was killed by then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Leon Lyons, 60, celebrates the guilty verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, at George Floyd Square in Minneapolis on Tuesday April 20, 2021. Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd while in police custody last year. (Victor J. Blue/The New York Times)

“I’m at a loss for words … and that’s not normal for me,” Lyons said. “I always have something to say, but I am completely overwhelmed. I met Jesse Jackson yesterday — I took pictures with him — and he told me that we were going to win this.”

Asked why he said what he did to the crowd after the verdict, Lyons explained.

“I mean … of all the Black cities in the world — places like Atlanta and D.C. — it took the small population of Black people here in Minneapolis to stand up and say no more, we’re not having it again.”

Maya Atherly and Lila Vischer, seniors at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, held a sign with the names of 10 Black people killed by police across the country, including Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and most recently Daunte Wright in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. The sign demanded justice for them.

“We can cross off Floyd’s name now,” Atherly said, pointing to his name. “You can’t cross off the other names, unfortunately.”

As word of Chauvin’s guilty verdict spread, the crowd grew much larger and louder. Celebration was in the air.

People hug at George Floyd Square in Minneapolis on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, after the jury found Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd. Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd while in police custody last year. (Victor J. Blue/The New York Times)

But Ebony Hawkins, who had a “Black Lives Matter” flag draped over shoulders, was somber. The 28-year-old was feeling a range of emotions as she stood near Cup Foods nearly a year since Floyd’s murder. She was happy about the verdict — yes — but also sad.

“I’m sad that someone had to die,” she said. “But this is a huge step.”

Cedric Steele, who owns the Just Turkey restaurant near Cup Foods, said the whole neighborhood has been on edge since the trial began.

“It’s been a real tough year,” Steele, 47, of St. Paul, said. “You want justice for George Floyd for what happened, and then we were worried about what if the trial went the opposite way. There would’ve been a lot of upset people. So I guess it just worked itself out. The city got its justice, and now everybody should try and move forward.”

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