MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — It’s been four weeks since former Officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty in George Floyd’s murder. Minneapolis is no longer a militarized zone. The National Guard is not guarding the Hennepin County courthouse and downtown businesses are no longer bordered up. Tension in the Twin Cities has finally eased.
It has been a long year for people in Minneapolis. A year the whole world has been watching what has happened.
Not long after video shot on a Minneapolis street corner of a violent arrest went viral, the public learned the man begging for his life in the video was Floyd. Days later it was learned that the Minneapolis officer pinning him to the ground for 9.29 minutes was Chauvin. The public would also learn how quickly peaceful protests during the day would turn to all out riots at night. Minneapolis erupted into chaos with buildings burned and businesses looted. A police precinct was also set on fire and overrun by rioters.
Not even the arrest of Chauvin and the three other officers who with him that night seem to keep protests from devolving into nightly riots. For the first time ever the governor fully activated the Minnesota National Guard.
When it was all said and done parts of Minneapolis looked like it had been bombed. The Guard, however, was able to return peace to the Twin Cities and in the aftermath, the spot where Floyd died became somewhat of an autonomous zone and was barricaded off. It is still patrolled by activists, some armed.
Those who live and work near George Floyd Square, like Pastor Curtis Farrar, want them to leave.
“I don’t know why they are here,” he said. “I don’t know why they are coming from the suburbs to man those gates. (They) can be so mean to other people.”
Emergency workers and reporters are not always welcome at George Floyd Square.
Police said they respond to calls near the square, but people who live nearby say that’s not always the case.
Ans activist identified as “Madi” said the goal here is to keep the area peaceful.
“I don’t think the goal is to not be a part of the city,” Madi said. “The goal is to be a community, not policing and punishing each other.”
The rest of the city however had just found its way back after the riots when just Chauvin’s murder trial began in March. Fearing more trouble, the courthouse was surrounded by barbed wire and concrete barriers. The National Guard was back in Minneapolis and the governor and Minneapolis’s mayor and police chief were determined, whatever verdict the trial would bring, there could not be a repeat of what happened following Floyd’s death.
“We cannot allow and retraumatize or city community unlawful activity,” Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said at the time.
As the trial was gaveled in, protestors demonstrated peacefully outside the courthouse. As the trial moved closer and closer to a verdict, businesses near the courthouse began once again to board up.
Inside the courthouse prosecutors, through expert testimony and witnesses, painted a picture of an officer who betrayed his badge, didn’t follow his training and didn’t lift his knee off Floyd even after he lost consciousness and had no plus.
“This wasn’t policing,” prosecutor Steve Schleicher said. “This was murder. The defendant is guilty of all three counts.”
The videos from the scene including video shot by a witness, the police body camera footage and video from surveillance cameras, would play a huge part in the trial. It was shown to the jury over and over again. The defense used it as well to try to show the jury what Chauvin saw when he walked up to the scene: Floyd resisting officers who were trying to get him into a squad car. Floyd had been accused of using a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes. Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson argued the use of force was justified.
“There is no evidence that officer’s tried applied unlawful force,” he said.
Nelson also argued it was Floyd’s drug use and an enlarged heart that caused his death.
With the case in the hands of the jury, the Twin Cities once again began to hold their breath and prepare for the worst case scenario.
When word came a verdict was in less than day after closing arguments, those hoping to hear “guilty” came to the courthouse and to George Floyd Square. And once again as the whole world watched.
Judge Peter Cahill read the verdict: “The state of Minnesota plaintiff vs. Derrick Michael Chauvin, we find the defendant guilty.”
Cheering erupted outside the courthouse and in the square
Many said expected a conviction on one charge, but not all three.
In the days following the verdict, Minneapolis slowly began moving once again toward a life before Floyd’s murder, before Chauvin’s trial and before the world eyes were focused on the Twin Cities.
Chauvin will be sentenced on June 25.. He could get 40 years plus additional time for aggravated circumstances.
The three other officers involved that night are set to go on trial in 2022.