'We Still Have A Lot Of Work To Do' Pittsburghers March From Freedom Corner After Jury Finds Chauvin Guilty On Three Charges
Updated at 10:30 p.m. on April 20, 2021.
Initially, there were few cheers Tuesday at the Hill District's Freedom Corner when dozens heard a Minnesota jury find Derek Chauvin guilty on three charges in the death of George Floyd.
Some people clapped, others expressed relief. But Terrance McGeorge of Project Matters said the moment wasn’t a celebration, but an occasion to honor a life that was cut short.
“This is a very positive feeling, but we still have a lot of work to do,” McGeorge said of Tuesday's verdict.
Around 7 pm the group headed towards Schenley Park. Walking down Forbes Avenue, traffic was redirected while people came out of their homes, raising their fists in support.
The demonstrators sang and chanted not only George Floyd's name, but also those of other Black people who have been killed by law enforcement officers, such as Tamir Rice and Antwon Rose Jr. of Woodlands Hills High School.
"Every day when Black people wake up and live, we're protesting," Treasure Palmer told the group. "It doesn't end today just because we got a guilty verdict."
Floyd died last May after Chauvin, a 45-year-old now-fired white officer, pinned his knee on the 46-year-old Black man’s neck for nearly 9 1/2 minutes in a case that triggered worldwide protests, violence and a furious reexamination of racism and policing in the U.S.
The jury found Chauvin guilty on charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
In Pittsburgh, several actions took place at Freedom Corner in Floyd’s name last year.
People protested for months calling for racial reckoning and accountability. For 16 consecutive Saturdays, the group Black, Young and Educated organized marches throughout the city calling for Pennsylvania to amend its own use-of-force law. The group said the language is subjective and should be changed to an objective standard.
“Whether or not an officer is justified in his use of deadly force comes down to the question of what that particular officer believes,” the group said. “The problem with this standard is that it creates a permission structure for police to use deadly force whenever they see fit. Furthermore, it allows an officer’s personal biases into the equation of whether the use of deadly force is justified.”
In Minneapolis, the jury deliberated for more than 10 hours over the course of two days in a city on edge against another outbreak of unrest.
The jury, made up of six white people and six Black or multiracial people, weighed charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The most serious charge carries up to 40 years in prison.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said that he was “relieved to see that justice was served in the jury’s decision today finding Derek Chauvin guilty" but added that “no verdict can bring back a life or eliminate the pain the Floyd family and so many Americans — especially in our Black community — continue to feel. … [O]ur efforts to uplift and support our minority neighbors must continue today and for years to come.”
State Rep. Ed Gainey, who is challenging Peduto for mayor and who was a visible presence at last summer's Black Lives Matter protests, hailed the verdict but said there was more work ahead.
"We got justice today," Gainey told reporters. "And tomorrow we should be optimistic about working for better police-community relations." Still, as he has during his campaign, he cited statistics showing Black residents made up more than three-fifths of those arrested by city police. "We have to be more community-oriented" in the approach to policing, he said. "We've got to be better than that and we can be."
Brandi Fisher, CEO of the Alliance for Police Accountability, said the community stands in solidarity with Floyd's family, but that the movement for racial justice continues. "An entire country was on edge. An entire country was not sure what the verdict would be after we all witnessed a very long and torturous murder. And we were still not sure what would happen," she said.
"It's so hard for me to feel victorious in this moment, though I do celebrate with the family [of Floyd]," she said. "We're going to have more trials to face in the coming months and the coming years."
Ahead of a verdict, some stores were boarded up in Minneapolis, the courthouse was ringed with concrete barriers and razor wire, and National Guard troops were on patrol. Last spring, Floyd’s death set off protests along with vandalism and arson in Minneapolis.
Minneapolis has also been on edge in recent days over the deadly police shooting of a 20-year-old Black man, Daunte Wright, in Brooklyn Center on April 11.