MINNEAPOLIS: People gather at George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, Minnesota Wednesday a day after Derek Chauvin was convicted of Floyd’s murder. – AFP

MINNEAPOLIC, US: With its covering of flowers, candles and stuffed toys, George Floyd Square has long been a place of mourning and remembrance. But on Wednesday people gathered on the Minneapolis street where the Black man was murdered by a white police officer, daring to hope for change less than 24 hours after a guilty verdict was announced.

Despite the freezing spring temperatures of the Midwest city, local resident Richard Moody, 64, said he came “to pay my respects and hope that it’s going to be a better day.” The square, which likely would have been the epicenter of new protests had former police officer Derek Chauvin been acquitted, has instead become a sanctuary where people bring mementos and posters, and even come to dance.

A white woman, kneeling in meditation, burned some herbs. Another, her child in front of her, took a selfie in front of a metal sculpture of a closed fist which now dominates the intersection. All the shops have stayed open, despite the tensions that swirled around the three-week trial, including “Cup Foods” where Floyd was suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill, triggering the deadly interaction with Chauvin.

Campfires and music
Across the street, a campfire had been lit on the forecourt of an abandoned gas station, while speakers pumped out music. A Black woman holding a small child said over the phone, “I had to bring my Black son here.” There was not a single police car to be seen, after the National Guard patrolled a city for weeks during the trial and downtown storefronts were boarded up.

Among those present was Alvin Manago, a 56-year-old warehouse worker, who was a friend and roommate of George Floyd at the time of his death. He said he came Wednesday “to be here for my friend and to see all the love and respect everyone has given him.” “I was happy, very happy, but I was sad at the same time, because it took me to lose my friend” in order to see justice done, he said of his reaction when he heard news of the conviction the day before. He considered the verdict “the first step in a positive direction.”

“The beginning of change”
Debesai Tsfai, a 71-year-old retired technician, came to the square to “feel the liveliness of it,” but said he was not sure the guilty verdict against Chauvin was really a sign of change. “It’s hard to say that. Will it continue? It needs to be seen, but it’s a start,” said Tsfai, who sees racism as a real problem in Minneapolis. “It didn’t happen for nothing you know,” he said, adding that from the outside, the city looks progressive, “but actually the condition of the Black (people), how they treat them and things like that, is under the rocks.”

People’s thoughts are already turning to Daunte Wright, a young Black man of 20 killed on April 11 by a white policewoman in the suburbs of Minneapolis during a routine traffic stop. The police officer has since been arrested and charged. Wright’s funeral was held yesterday at a church in Minneapolis. A makeshift memorial to his memory has been installed just a few yards (meters) from George Floyd’s. “I have a son who is 10 and I’m already worried about what’s going to happen when he starts driving, we shouldn’t have to live like that,” said Helena Sere, a self-employed woman in her 40s. Calling for police reform, she too said she hoped the verdict marked the “start of a change.” – AFP