Reactions from Denverites started pouring in shortly after a jury in Minneapolis found Derek Chauvin guilty on all three counts in the murder of George Floyd.
“This country just saved itself from an immediate burn down,” tweeted Denver City Councilmember Candi CdeBaca. “The short-term win is the guilty verdict but stay tuned for the fairness of the sentencing AND for meaningful change in policing & public safety. The work has just begun.”
Rev. Nathan Adams, lead pastor of Denver’s Park Hill United Methodist Church, said he felt like he could exhale after hearing the verdict. He said he wasn’t quite in tears, but he was close.
“I think relief is my first reaction,” Adams said. “(I’m) filled with hope that Black lives really do matter.”
Adams, who identifies as biracial and African American, said the decision feels like the “start of justice” but added there is still work left to be done. He leads a multiracial congregation in Denver that supports the Black Lives Matter movement. Members ring bells outside the church on Mondays in honor of people killed by police. Adams said he was planning on speaking to his father, a former cop, on Tuesday.
Mayor Michael Hancock called the verdict the correct one.
“This was the correct verdict,” Hancock said in a statement. “George Floyd received justice today, our community received justice today and the people received justice today. George Floyd’s death sparked a long overdue reckoning on race in our country. This trial, and this guilty verdict, may be just one step toward reconciliation, but it is a powerful moment for the cause of equal justice in our society. We have much work still to do, and that march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge is still far from done, but this is certainly a victory for that mission.”
Local abolitionist and bail fund founder Elisabeth Epps saw the verdict come in from her home office. Epps has advocated for criminal justice reforms across the state.
“The first thing to be said is that this is the correct verdict,” Epps said.
She stopped short of calling it justice, adding that based on some reactions and messages she’s seen, people understand that the right verdict does not necessarily equate to justice.
Epps said the only people who should get peace from the decision are Floyd’s family.
“Justice looks like changing the circumstances that allowed it to ever happen,” Epps said.
Chauvin, a white former Minneapolis police officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly 10 minutes on May 25, 2020, after the 46-year-old Black man bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill.
Floyd’s death sparked worldwide protests against racism and police brutality last summer. Thousands gathered daily at the Colorado State Capitol, demanding systemic changes in policing in Denver and around the U.S. An investigation found the Denver Police Department used excessive force in its response to protests last summer.
Shortly after the verdict was announced, DPD Chief Paul Pazen said he respected the judicial process and hopes “this verdict allows our community and nation to begin to heal.
“Since the horrific killing of George Floyd, the Denver Police Department has listened and learned from our community and continues working to build relationships where we demonstrate how we value those we serve,” he continued. “We remain committed to finding the best ways to ensure policing in Denver is safe and equitable for all.
“I believe we have made meaningful progress in the nearly 11 months since his death, but there is more work to be done. Working together as a community is essential to reaching those goals.”
Seventeen-year-old Ashira Campbell organized a protest at the state Capitol on Saturday for Daunte Wright, who was shot by a police officer April 11 in a Minneapolis suburb. Looming large over that event was the Chauvin trial.
“I decided that the community needs to come together, because this is ridiculous,” Campbell told us as she led hundreds in a march east on Colfax Avenue on Saturday. “We’re fed up. We’re tired of it. It’s a name after a name. Adam. Daunte. Over and over.” (Chicago police shot and killed 13-year-old Adam Toledo on March 29.)
This is an ongoing story and will be updated.