Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. Here's how San Diegans reacted to the news.
Derek Chauvin Conviction
Black Voices React
Monica Montgomery Steppe, San Diego District 4 City Councilwoman, called the verdict a “seed of hope,” and a turning point in the fight for equity in law enforcement.
“As I waited to hear this verdict – with the nation and people around the world – my heart was filled with angst, and now it is filled with relief that justice has been served. This verdict is a seed of hope for mothers, fathers, and families with Black sins that our lives do matter and more needs to be done to reimagine policing in our communities of concern. This case is a pivotal turning point for all of us who love justice and fight for equity in law enforcement,” Montgomery Steppe said in a statement.
Newly elected State Assemblywoman Dr. Akilah Weber (District 79) said the jury's verdict was the right one, and said there is much more work to be done before justice is achieved.
"The jury handed down the right verdicts today. Accountability is the first step to achieving justice. There is still much work that needs to be done," she tweeted.
Weber's mother and predecessor in the 79th district, recently-appointed California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, said the verdict brought her relief, "but it alone cannot undo the fact that for more than 400 years, the laws of this land have supported the dehumanization and attempted genocide of Black people. That is a fact of life."
True justice, according to Shirley Weber, would be George Floyd getting to see his daughter grow up.
The ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties stopped short of equating the conviction to justice, saying in a statement that “True justice would mean George Floyd was never killed in the first place.”
Shane Harris, a national civil rights advocate with roots in San Diego, also released a statement on social media saying that the conviction must be acknowledge as a mere mark along the path of "reimagining policing in America.
"The reality is that there is a Derek Chauvin in a police department near you," Harris said in part.
Harris also called on the U.S. Senate to advance the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 to President Biden's desk to sign.
Geneviéve Jones-Wright, a former candidate for District Attorney and Executive Director of Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance, said that Chauvin’s convictions have to be more than symbols.
“We must continue to push — as we did in unprecedented numbers all across the globe this past summer — and demand transformative and substantive changes to our policing systems. We must have real accountability, robust oversight, and authentic transparency.,” Jones-Wright said in part of a Twitter thread Tuesday.
'That Was Justice'
NBC 7 and Telemundo 20 spoke with San Diegans all over the county Tuesday, including a woman named Olga who was in Barrio Logan when news of the guilty verdict came down.
“I’m happy. That was justice,” Olga told Telemundo 20. “He got what he deserved. What he did was wrong.”
Olga said she was confident Chauvin would, ultimately, be found guilty. She said the proof is in the videos.
“There was no way to change the story,” she added.
Olga said she believes police departments need better training and to look at their processes.
Sala Suriel was having lunch in downtown San Diego when the guilty verdict was announced.
It was a solemn moment.
“I think it was monumental for us to witness justice being served for something that should have never occurred,” Suriel told NBC 7. “I think it was important for us to be in touch with our community and the rest of the world at the moment.”
Suriel believes the jurors came back with the right verdict and added, “I think justice was served.”
“I hope that this sets a precedent for law enforcement for people who are in oppressed groups. I hope that there’s reform, abolition, that’s all I’m hoping for,” Suriel added. “This makes me a little hopeful. They’re pushing the needle just a little bit.”
Suriel – who is Afro-Latina – said the killing of George Floyd “hit home.”
“Being from the area that I’m from in New Jersey, we experience situations like this, run-ins with the law. So, we try to be as cautious as possible but even so, we’re still targeted. But hopefully, this will be a step in the right direction.”
Sharon Coburn, a retired nurse visiting San Diego from Chicago, said she was ecstatic when she heard the verdict.
"But I knew if [the jury] would follow what was actually done, they would get the verdict right. And they did, they did.” Coburn said.
Coburn said she feared what could have happened if the jury went the other direction.
"I did not want to see Minnesota and the rest of the world tore up again," she said. "We're just trying to recover from COVID. We need to be on a positive note and we are."
Tao Baraka, a customer at a barbershop in San Diego's Encanto neighborhood, said the convictions were a start.
“This right here, I believe, is a beginning. Hopefully, we’ll see other forms of justice happening when we see police or law enforcement kill people, hurt or mangle people in the streets. So this is a start," Baraka said.
The reading of the verdicts evoked a range of emotions across anyone listening in. Some described relief and excitement, but Khalid Alexander was surprised he felt anything at all.
“I was actually surprised at my initial reaction, that I had an emotional response," he said. "Somebody that deals with police abuse, the disrespect of our community members by police and law enforcement on a daily basis, we’re kind of used to the dehumanization, so I was kind of surprised that I had an emotional reaction.”
A few hours after the verdict was announced, an organized march led about 100 people from Waterfront Park to SDPD headquarters and back.
Participant Alicia C. said she felt like she'd been holding her breath watching Chauvin's trial unfold, and the moment his guilty verdict was announced was an opportunity for her to exhale.
"There’s excitement in that and just wanting to be around people who not only love and support you, but believe in the same causes – fighting for racial justice," Alicia said.
There was also a fair amount of angst leading up to the jury's decision, because of the let down she said she would've felt had the jury decided the other way.
“Being a black woman in America, it’s hard to have hope. I feel like every time we have hope, the system does something to take that away from us. So it almost feels too scary to have hope because you don’t want to be disappointed. A lot of people had hope [the jury] would find him guilty on all three charges, but we also knew that maybe they wouldn’t, and so to hear that verdict – it almost feels like they saw us. They saw how wrong this was and they made the right decision."
Marcher Bianca Middleton said she wished more people showed up to the rally, given the size of the marches throughout San Diego in the days after George Floyd was killed.
“I feel like today we got accountability, not so much justice. I look at these numbers and I’m like, this many people? You would think that thousands of people would come out here and celebrate victory, that we finally got a victory. Breonna hasn’t had hers yet," Middleton said.
San Diego Mayor, Other Leaders React to Chauvin's Guilty Verdict
San Diego Todd Gloria released this statement after the guilty verdict:
“The jury has rightly called this case what it was: murder. Derek Chauvin’s actions were an abuse of power and a disservice to the men and women who nobly protect and serve our communities – and now, he will be held accountable. Today, millions of Americans know that their cries for justice were heard. In the same way people across the country rallied to speak up for George Floyd, it is my hope we will take up the important work that remains to address the systemic wrongs against Black people in this country and come together to heal. I encourage all San Diegans to honor George Floyd’s memory peacefully.”
Gloria also took a moment to address San Diego Police Department officers over their radio system after Chauvin's verdict was announced.
"Colleagues, this is Mayor Todd Gloria... I want to address each and every single one of you who nobly serve our great city. Today's verdict is just the beginning of building a deeper trust with our community. Justice was served today against someone who does not represent you, or us, or our department, or who we are as a nation. So I want you to hear from me today, I know who you are. You are people who help complete strangers on the worst day in their life; You are people who believe in collaboration and community; You are people who put your lives on the line every single day to protect this city. I, and the people of San Diego are grateful for your dedication and your service. With today's decision made, there's now time for all of us to come together to heal and to move forward. Please take care of yourself, of each other, and for the people of this great city. Be safe everybody."
A spokesperson for the mayor said Gloria wanted to acknowledge the sacrifice officers make in the line of duty, and make it clear that officers have a duty to build community trust.
"We will never tolerate a Derek Chauvin here," the spokesperson said.
U.S. Congresswoman Sara Jacobs (D-CA-53) released a statement that read, in part:
“I am grateful for the jury’s guilty verdict today, but true justice would be having George Floyd at home with his family. One guilty verdict doesn’t change the reality of being Black in America. For decades, Black Americans have had difficult conversations with their children about the dangers of police interactions gone wrong. And for decades, they’ve been subjected to video footage of their loved ones beaten and brutalized when the worst happens. We have to do better, and we will do better.”
“Black lives matter,” Jacobs added. “And George Floyd should still be here.”
San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore released a statement to the media before the verdict came down. In it, Gore acknowledged the verdict would come with many emotions.
Gore’s statement read, in part:
“The San Diego County Sheriff's Department recognizes, respects and will protect the fundamental right to peacefully assemble and the right to freedom of speech and expression. We ask that individuals interested in expressing their emotions related to the verdict, do so peacefully and with respect to other people and property. If you are participating in a demonstration and are asked by law enforcement to leave the area, please do so. If you witness a violent act or destruction of property, please move to a safe place, and report it.”
Shortly before 3 p.m., San Diego County Board of Supervisors chair Nathan Fletcher released the following statement in reaction to the guilty verdicts:
"Justice was served today in Minnesota, but this case is reflective of a serious problem of systemic racism and perpetual violence against communities of color across our nation. The work to fundamentally deliver justice and fairness for communities of color must continue.”
Not a San Diegan, but a Californian, Gov. Gavin Newsom also reacted to the verdict Tuesday afternoon, releasing this statement, in part:
“The hard truth is that, if George Floyd looked like me, he'd still be alive today. No conviction can repair the harm done to George Floyd and his family, but today’s verdict provides some accountability as we work to root out the racial injustice that haunts our society. We must continue the work of fighting systemic racism and excessive use of force. "