Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges. Screenshot from CNN.

Community members around the Mission District reacted with a mixture of relief, elation, and skepticism following a Minnesota jury’s Tuesday afternoon verdict that Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who asphyxiated George Floyd under his knee last May, was guilty of two counts of murder. 

While the mood was generally positive, many agreed that the guilty verdict was only a small step toward changing the institution of policing — one many have criticized for disproportionate brutality against people of color, particularly Black men. 

The video of Floyd pleading for his life under Chauvin’s knee for more than nine minutes sparked mass protests around the country last summer, including in San Francisco. Though Chauvin was quickly fired from the Minneapolis Police Department and charged with murder, his conviction was far from assured. Proving a police officer is guilty of murder is notoriously difficult, and rarely happens.  

But bucking the odds, Chauvin, who is white, was convicted on Tuesday afternoon of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter for the killing of Floyd. He could face up to 40 years in prison. 

“I’m overjoyed,” said 17-year-old Sebastian Bacher, “because it’s one of the first times we’ve had a conviction like this. All of the other ones have been let go or sent off with a really low consequence and it’s amazing that this can finally happen.” 

Bacher added the guilty verdict is “100 percent a step in the right direction,” noting that it may take a long time for society to overcome the “deep-rooted racial hatred” that Floyd’s death came to represent. Asked how he felt watching the video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck as Floyd cried, “I can’t breathe,” Bacher said: “It’s watching a murder. No one should feel anything but shame and terror for that.” 

Daria Garina, 33, said he knew of the guilty verdict against Chauvin, but said the former officer isn’t the only one who needs to be convicted. “The whole system is guilty,” Garina said, standing on Mission Street. “Things aren’t over until we abolish the police.” 

“It’s good news,” he added of Tuesday’s guilty verdict. “And there’s so much more to go toward abolishing policing, prisons, ICE, and all insitutions of the state that murder Black and Brown people.”

Josh Morgan, 29, who was standing in line at a local business on Mission Street near 21st Street, said that while he felt justice had been served, he also wondered whether anything would really change. 

“It’s been like this for how long? So why would this change?” asked Morgan, who grew up in Oakland and is Black. 

He pointed out that it has been more than a decade since BART police officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed Oscar Grant at Fruitvale Station in 2009. Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in a subsequent criminal trial. 

“Justice for Floyd, but you know — it is what it is. I personally feel like ain’t nothing going to change.”

The verdict was read by Judge Peter Cahill just after 2 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. There was little reaction from Chauvin, half his face blocked with a surgical mask, as Cahill went down the list of convictions. After the verdict was read, the former officer was handcuffed and led away with his hands behind his back. 

Sara Shortt, the 50-year-old director of policy and community organizing at Community Housing Partnership, waited for the announcement outside a coffee shop while texting friends, trading predictions on what the decision would be and what a guilty or not-guilty verdict would mean. At 2 p.m., when the verdict was expected, it came and went without any news.

Then, Shortt got a text from her friend — guilty on all three counts. Unable to help herself, she yelled out to those outside a coffee shop, “Guilty on all charges!”

“Some people clapped and responded, and others looked at me blankly,” she said with a laugh. “I’m feeling greatly relieved, but also very aware that this isn’t nearly enough, and we need to continue to push to make sure that anytime this happens, police are held accountable to the highest degree.”

Dylan, 25, found out about the verdict on Twitter and was reading about the decision while eating a sandwich from Valencia Subs. 

He would like to see the decision send a signal to police officers in San Francisco.

“I would hope that police officers would not behave with complete impunity if they know that, if they murder somebody, they can be convicted for it,” he said.

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, there were no demonstrations, though the Mission Police Station had clearly prepared by setting up barricades that blocked off the sidewalk. Seven police officers stood guard outside. They declined to comment on the verdict. 

Some people walking around were discussing the verdict on the phone; others said they had no idea a verdict had been reached or that a trial was being held in the first place. But the trial was extraordinary — a rare spectacle that featured police officers, including the Minneapolis police chief, testifying against one of their own. 

Like Mission community members, San Francisco leaders reacted to the verdict with jubilation — though they said the work is not over. 

“Today’s verdict brings relief to Americans but it doesn’t bring justice,” tweeted San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin immediately following the verdict. “It doesn’t heal the pain George Floyd’s family has suffered.”

“Convictions against police officers who break the law remain rare,” added Boudin, who is currently prosecuting three cases against San Francisco police officers — including former SFPD rookie officer Christopher Samayoa for manslaughter in the killing of Kieta O’Neil in Bayview in December, 2017. It is the first criminal charge against a SFPD officer for an on-duty killing in San Francisco history. 

“We must push for accountability, but true justice means creating a system that eliminates racism and violence against Black and Brown people,” Boudin said. 

In a statement, Mayor London Breed said she remembers watching the video of Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck, and “it felt like an eternity.”

“The systemic injustice from hundreds of years of racism and mistreatment of Black Americans was put into plain view on video, and the country and the world erupted in protest,” she said. 

“While this tragedy can never be undone, what we can do is finally make real change in the name of George Floyd,” she said, noting her move to route $120 million from San Francisco law enforcement budgets into housing, health care, and community services for the city’s Black community. 

SFPD Chief Bill Scott agreed that “the work of doing justice for George Floyd doesn’t end today,” adding in a statement: “My hope for all of us in criminal justice roles is that we rise to this moment, and learn the lessons that history has frankly been trying to teach us for decades.”

Julian Mark

Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

Kate Selig

Kate Selig is an intern at Mission Local.

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15 Comments

  1. I’m surprised but relieved. We must hold bad cops accountable, for two reasons: to get justice for the specific instance of wrongdoing and to give us a chance of having good cops. If bad cops get off without consequences, those who might be good cops become apathetic or quit.

    Please be strict in not allowing racism in the comments section. Poorly moderated or unmoderated comments sections disproportionately harm marginalized populations.
    https://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2014/sep/12/comment-sections-toxic-moderation

    1. The danger in “not allowing racism” in such discussions is that anything that is said in support for the cop here will immediately be dismissed as racism. So any discussion ends up being completely one-sided.

      On a larger scale that is why it is near impossible to have a balanced discussion about race in American, which in turn means the problems continue. We have replaced one form of intolerance with another.

      1. Tom, you’re telling on yourself. If you can’t say something without being racist, you need therapy. Don’t make up bad faith accusations to muddy the waters.

        Regarding your second paragraph, look up the Paradox of Intolerance. A person who thinks intolerance of racism is the same as intolerance of Black people has a name: white supremacist. A comments section that gives that person a platform furthers white supremacy.

        1. YB, I speak all the time without being racist. My point was more that ANYONE who says anything in defense of the cop here will immediately be accused of being a racist. So if your strategy is to ensure that nobody will take a contrary side to a debate from you, out of fear of being called a racist, then your tactic is sadly working.

          You are basically advocating for exactly the kind of one-sidedness that you claim to oppose, simply because it supports the side that you just happen to personally prefer on issues.

          1. Can you give an example? Bonus points if it’s not a teenager. Trolls and trustafarians don’t count.

            By the logic of your second paragraph, we should abolish all rules. If we can’t identify racism with some degree of accuracy, that calls into question whether we can identify anything. By your logic, we shouldn’t ban murder, because some kid will complain her dad was killing her when he told her to clean her room. I have a more optimistic view — that it is possible to identify racism with some degree of accuracy, and that we can choose not to help racists spread their message. The existence of trolls and of good-faith people with more energy than judgment (often students taking their first sociology class) does not negate my optimism.

          2. My point was limited to calling you out on your self-serving appeal to the moderator to only allow comments that agree with you. Not sure why you fear both sides of a debate being allowed to make their case.

          3. Tom, by your statement, “I speak all the time without being racist,” you admit it’s possible to identify racism. If you want ML to publish racist comments, you are complicit in upholding white supremacy.

          4. My comment had nothing to so with racism. You were the one who introduced that topic.

            My point was that you were seeking to suppress free speech here.

          5. In the context of a Black man murdered and a jury convicting his murderer, Tom chooses to spend his time arguing ML should publish racist comments. These are the actions of a white supremacist.

          6. No, I just think you should not promote intolerance of free speech in your zeal to promote your own ideological agenda. And not because I have anything to say that ML would not like.

            Anyway ML will have its rules and you cannot manipulate them in the way you try to.

          7. In the context of a Black man murdered and in response to, “Please be strict in not allowing racism in the comments section,” Tom complained, “you should not promote intolerance of free speech in your zeal to promote your own ideological agenda”. Tom opposes the “ideological agenda” that racism doesn’t belong here.

            Black, he tripped and grabbed her arm
            white, she screamed
            Was it assault?
            No, she said, don’t charge him
            That afternoon’s Tulsa Tribune:
            “Nab Negro for Attacking Girl In Elevator”
            Free Marketplace of Ideas, On Sale Now:
            Gather White mobs
            Surround the courthouse
            “To Lynch Negro Tonight”
            The sheriff said no and threatened to shoot
            so they went to Greenwood
            Black Wall Street of Tulsa
            Whites in cars, Whites in planes
            shooting and throwing
            firebombs on Greenwood
            Fight bad speech with good speech
            You think the Black press slept?
            Dozens dead, hundreds wounded, thousands homeless
            Black Wall Street, smoldering, ruined
            “If only the facts had been printed
            there would have been no riot”
            But that would be UnAmerican
            For Free Speech, absolute, unconstrained
            by fear of Black people dying
            Must be had

    2. Good Weed, your suggested policing of comments is excessively unAmerican and undemocratic. We need to have thick skins in a vibrant marketplace of ideas, and people should generally be able to write what they think. It’s important to protect minority views (whether or not they’re views of minorities) and repulsive speech. Better to let the racist say the stupid things and to learn from their honesty about their own professed perspectives–and to respond with more sophistication and skillful persuasion in the future. Next you’ll probably say that racists shouldn’t be able to vote. But anyway, rather than being so instinctively coercive about regulating people expressing their thoughts in an easy case like this, give some texture to your position by weighing in with your seemingly easy rule in the context of the school board miasma. Go read the comments in the article by the infamous editorial bully JE for an example of where your rule just falls apart as a practical matter. How do you neatly police the conversation when it’s Black v. Asian on those facts, eh?

      1. Agreed, it is sad that in this day and age there are still some who seek censorship in order to bolster their own viewpoints and prejudices. Someone confident in their opinions would feel no need to do that. You have to wonder what words he fears that much?

      2. In the context of a jury convicting a cop of murdering a Black man, the person behind the account Tenzin Thomas Masami doesn’t waste time on that topic. No, they want to argue it would be “Un-American” for ML to not publish racist comments. (Ironic, considering the abuses of the House Un-American Activities Committee.)

        Georges Ruggio
        was just making his case
        Kantano Habimana
        had the right
        to his opinion on
        Radio Télévision Libre
        des Mille Collines
        Don’t like it? Fight
        bad speech with good speech
        We need both sides
        RTLM and Radio Muhabura
        Nobody dies
        in the Free Marketplace of Ideas
        “Go to work”
        Who can truly know what that means?
        “Sweep the dirt outside”
        Maybe they just want to be clean–
        clean of dust, or cleansed of Tutsis?
        A school board was embarrassing
        so nobody can objectively know
        Fight bad speech with good speech
        in the Free Marketplace of Ideas
        What do you have to fear?
        Nobody dies
        It’s a vibrant exchange of ideas
        Develop a thicker skin
        to being called a cockroach
        to the machete
        that killed a half million
        Because Paul Kagame made a police state
        An honest-to-goodness, totalitarian,
        free-speech-banning police state
        And his bad example proves
        we never could’ve stopped
        Radio Télévision Libre
        des Mille Collines
        without becoming a police state

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