MINNEAPOLIS — George Floyd Square, the blocked-off intersection in Minneapolis where George Floyd was killed on May 25, has become sacred ground for people wanting justice for his death. On Tuesday, crowds gathered there in advance of the jury’s verdict in the murder trial of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin. And when it was announced around 4 p.m. that Chauvin was found guilty on all counts in Floyd’s murder, it became a site of celebration: The conviction was without modern precedent.
A marching band’s music wafted in the air as hundreds gathered to mark the occasion. Among them were women who have regularly protested since Floyd’s death last year — and who wanted to share in the historic culmination of the highest-profile police brutality case in decades.
Fadumo Osman, 28, said she felt a sense of relief upon hearing the verdict — but also a sense that fighting for justice was not over. “There are countless other Black individuals who were murdered by the police who will not get justice, who will not get their day in court,” she said. Still, Osman said, “I guess today is one of the good days.”
Osman has been coming to George Floyd Square and attending other protests around the Twin Cities since the day after Floyd was killed. “Ever since, we’ve been activated and going to different protests. I think the people’s voice was heard in the jury today,” she said.
Osman protested police killings before Floyd’s death, too. She showed up to protest when 32-year-old Philando Castile was fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop in 2016. As she put it: “In Minnesota, there has been police brutality ever since I can remember.”
In 2017, the Minnesota officer who shot Castile was acquitted on all charges. But despite the verdict in Chauvin’s trial — he was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — there’s still more work to do, Osman added: “I think that policing in general won’t change until there are enough people that are as activated as we’ve been for this past year, as angry and as passionate about what’s happening and then want to see change.”
Olivia Bergin, a 17-year-old high school student, was watching the verdict on television. When the three guilty counts were announced, she felt “relief,” she said, “almost like a weight was taken off to know that the right decision was made.” And she knew she wanted to come to the square, which is just over a mile from where she lives, to witness the moment.
“I’ve wanted to celebrate and go back to where it all started,” she said. “I was here last May, and I’m here now just to see this change and see how everyone is feeling. I really wanted to be here.”
Besides going to protests, Bergin said she has been writing articles about Floyd and racial justice for her student newspaper at Washburn High School, which is just a 10-minute drive from George Floyd Square. “I’m somewhat of an activist, but you know, you can always do more,” she said.
Last May, Melanie Whittaker, 39, was unsure if she should bring her daughter, 12-year-old Naomi, to George Floyd Square to protest because of the pandemic. But Naomi urged her mother — along with her grandfather and cousin — to go. And even when it started to rain, Naomi didn’t want to leave. “You could just tell it was just in her heart,” Melanie said.
Melanie decided to come out on the day of the verdict because they wanted to be in community, no matter the outcome. As she put it: “We didn’t want to be alone during a time like this.”
Now, they have something to celebrate. Still, like others at the protest, mom and daughter feel this is just the beginning. “There’s a lot of work to be done,” Naomi said, “but I’m glad they did right by him.”
“I still feel sad for the other people who didn’t get their justice,” Melanie added. “They’re still on my mind, especially the young ones like Tamir Rice, and Trayvon Martin, and Philando Castile, and 20-year-old Daunte Wright, who was just killed.”
People who have frequented George Floyd Square in the past year say it has become a healing space: filled with sculptures, murals, chalk drawings, flowers and remembrances.
Naya Anderson has seen it all, as a hair stylist who works on the same block. She has been an active participant in the square, she said, and has attended other protests around the city as well. She said she was excited to see everyone come out on Tuesday: “Oh, my goodness, people have been just waiting for this moment.”
Kia Bible, 34, has also been running a nonprofit medical unit called 612 MASH at the square since last May.
Bible said her group plans to open a free clinic at the square, “to make sure that our Black people can continue to have the actual health and help that they need,” she said. “This is an opportunity for us to help out with our mental health. This is a victory. This is a reason for us to stand with our heads up right now.”
And, as the others said, there is still much to fight for, according to Bible: “This isn’t over. This is just the beginning. This is that first stepping stone that we need to continue to fight towards Black liberation and actual freedom. We deserve it.”