Nearly a year later, chants for justice now turn into shouts of celebration.
Across the country, people reacted to the news of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin being found guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.
Things were pretty quiet in Philadelphia on Tuesday evening, but some made their way to City Hall. One group of people decided to make their voice heard in a different way.
Nine people stood at City Hall displaying signs that say the last words of unarmed black people killed at the hands of the police – a gesture that was silent, but deafening.
One sign read “Officers, why do you have your guns out?”, referring to the last words of retired marine Kenneth Chamberlain, who was killed in 2011. Another read ” “, with Breonna Taylor‘s name underneath. Taylor was fatally shot in her home last year.
Meanwhile, Temple senior Allia Smith, who watched from home, says she was please with the outcome of the verdict.
“When I first found out, I was very happy. I felt that for once our voice was finally heard,” Smith said. “It’s like finally, finally we have justice and justice is served. I was thrilled to see him serve the consequences for what he’d done.”
The president of Temple’s Progressive NAACP Gary Lawery says the verdict is a win, but a temporary one.
“That initial feeling is ‘wow we’ve got justice for once, like I can’t believe this is happening’”, he said. “But like everyone was saying yesterday, there was that moment where ‘this is justice’, but no it’s not.”
For many, this verdict represents accountability when it comes to law enforcement. It’s a sigh of relief, but also a reminder that there is still a long way to go. Cathy Rosen, the Department Chair of Criminal Justice at Temple, says the road ahead will not be easy.
“We need to be cautious going forward”, Rosen said. “Because this was a unique case.” She says the case helped modify the narrative about accountability with police officers. But it’s going to take more work, and more than just conversations about reform.
“Ultimately it takes much more. It takes systemic change, it takes changing police culture, it takes changing the wider culture, society, and a whole lot systemic forms of injustice,” she said.
These measures are needed because Lawery says police are killing unarmed black people at alarming rates, creating a sense of fear in the black community.
“It’s unfortunate that when I leave my house in the morning, I leave wondering if I’ll make it home at the end of the day,” Lawery said.
Both Lawery and Professor Rosen talked about what’s to come in the future. Both say that there should be more action on a legislative level, as well as police reform.
In terms of what’s next for Derek Chauvin, he will be sentenced in about eight weeks. Professor Rosen says it’s important to note that Chauvin will be sentenced on the highest count, the most serious charge of second-degree murder, since all the charges stem from the same act. A precise date for the sentencing has yet to be announced.
The three other officers involved in Floyd’s case are expected to be tried together in August for aiding and abetting Floyd’s murder.
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