‘A good first step’: Minneapolis wakes to new reality after Chauvin verdict

Anxiety and fears subside as people pay their respects at George Floyd murder site

Shania Covington Smith and her son Pernell (2) at the shrine where George Floyd was murdered last May. Photograph: Suzanne Lynch

Shania Covington Smith and her son Pernell (2) at the shrine where George Floyd was murdered last May. Photograph: Suzanne Lynch

 

The sun was shining in Minneapolis. A day after Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd last May, the city woke up to a new reality.

After weeks of protests and looming anxiety about the possibility of a conviction, the city breathed a collective sigh of relief. Chauvin was convicted on all three charges against him. The crowds that had come to the court on Tuesday erupted in cheers as Judge Peter Cahill announced the guilty verdicts in the courtroom on the 18th floor of the heavily fortified building. Celebrations went late into the night.

But around the Hennepin County Courthouse on Wednesday there were still signs of a city on edge. Businesses on every street – from Walgreen pharmacies to Wells Fargo banks – were boarded up in anticipation of the violence that never came. Heavily armed law enforcement personnel in camouflage gear stood by army-style vehicles on street corners. But the mood had changed – the welcome late spring sunshine perhaps symbolising a new start for Minneapolis.

Raised fist

A few miles south of the courtroom, at the junction of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, people came from early morning. They stopped to pay their respects outside the Cup Foods convenience store where George Floyd was murdered by Chauvin when he pressed his knee to the detained man’s neck for more than nine minutes.

Shania Covington Smith had come with her two-year-old son Pernell. As people stood around quietly talking and reading the signs and messages left at the site of the murder, she took a moment to take a selfie with her son. In the background was the now famous sculpture of a raised fist, surrounded by flowers and a picture of the murdered man which has become the centrepiece of the memorial.

‘Long way to go’

“This is a good day,” Shania said, explaining why she wanted her son to experience this moment. Asked if she thought this could be a turning point in the black community’s relationship with the police, she paused. “I hope so,” she replied. “We’ve still got a long way to go, with what happened to Daunte,” a reference to 20-year-old African-American man Daunte Wright, who was shot and killed by police officer Kim Potter 10 days ago.

But she looked around at the steady stream of people, black and white, young and old, who had come to pay their respects to George Floyd, and smiled. “It’s a good first step,” she said.

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