SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — Activists and civil rights leaders across the Bay Area took to the street to express their feelings of relief in the wake of the guilty verdict against Derek Chauvin Tuesday.
It took the jury less than a day of deliberations to announce they had reached a verdict in the trial of the fired Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd’s death. Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts.READ MORE: Drought By The Numbers: Energy Release Component Is Already At Late September Levels
The end of the murder trial in Minnesota prompted reaction across the Bay Area. In San Jose, civil rights leaders held an event to mark the decision downtown.
“I have a song that I always do by James Brown,” said local NAACP President Jeff Moore. “‘I feel good.’ Today, right now, I feel a lot lighter. I’m seeing a little bit clearer.”
A band played music outside of city hall for a crowd of several dozen people to mark the news early Tuesday evening, after remarks from community leaders earlier in the afternoon.
“Today, we can celebrate together with a great victory,” said Reverend George Oliver of Grace Baptist Church. “It’s not a day for justice. This was a day for accountability.”
One factor in that accountability was the testimony of fellow officers against Derrick Chauvin. Moore says that was unique to this case, and could signal a turning point for future prosecutions.
“We need to honor those types of officers to stand up when they see wrong and say, ‘That’s not what our job is,'” said Moore. “It’s their responsibility to take care of us, as police officers. We’d like to see more of that from our officers and let them know that it’s the community that supports them. The community will get behind them.”
The group says they will continue to press for more civil rights reforms, including expanded voting rights and greater accountability for police officers found guilty of misconduct.
Oliver also hosted a vigil at his church Tuesday night for people to to discuss the verdict, but there was caution in declaring it to be too much of a victory.READ MORE: North Bay Homeowners Scramble to Prepare Properties for Long Fire Season
Grace Baptist Church is a place accustomed to struggles. Cesar Chavez organized there and now it is occupied in the struggle for racial justice. But those gathered there on Tuesday were able to feel that at least some measure of fairness is possible.
“I would love to say we are overjoyed, but what we are is relieved that finally the accountability has happened,” said Oliver. “We can’t say justice happened, because if justice was in this world, George Floyd would still be with us.”
Lou Dimes, the young founder of a social justice group called Black Outreach felt there was a certain amount of practicality in the verdict.
“You know, I am happy that this happened, but I do also realize that it took people almost bringing the country down for this to even happen, you know?” Dimes said. “They kind of didn’t have a choice, as opposed to some of these other cases. So I would say it’s kind of a bittersweet moment.”
A block away at San Jose State, the Olympic protest statement of Tommy Smith and John Carlos is immortalized in a larger-than-life statue. But sitting quietly nearby, Armando Placencia wasn’t willing to take much satisfaction from news of the verdict.
“There is a lot more to be done, especially with minorities,” he said. “I think we’re all together, a country of many different races, and we need to learn to live together.”
Back at the vigil, Pastor Oliver said while it was only one small step, it does offer a glimmer of hope.
“For so long we have defined justice with colored lines and colored language,” he said. “We need to define justice as one American people. And that today is a little more possible now that we did not create ‘exceptions’ to the rule.”MORE NEWS: Rapping Senior Citizen Dancers Beat Back Asian Hate in San Francisco Chinatown
John Ramos contributed to this story.