Elected officials and Hyde Park-Kenwood residents praised the verdict for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was found guilty Tuesday on three charges in the murder of George Floyd last May, but stressed the need for further changes to criminal justice and policing, both in Chicago and across the country.
Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter; sentencing will take place in several weeks.
"I appreciate the verdict and think it is appropriate. However, I have to ask myself why the world was on pins and needles wondering if there would be a guilty verdict, wondering if there would be justice," said Ald. Sophia King (4th). "I now wonder how much time he will get and whether that will be appropriate. I also wonder about so many who haven’t seen justice: Trayvon, Breonna, Sandra Bland ... But this is definitely a step forward."
State Sen. Robert Peters (D-13) gave a similarly measured response.
“Today, a jury decided that Derek Chauvin will be locked up and will face justice for murdering George Floyd, but we are still a long way from delivering George and his family the justice they truly deserve," he said in a statement. "True justice would be creating a society where police don’t murder unarmed Black people.
“Until we can achieve a society where everyone is given the opportunity to fulfill their best lives, we must continue to fight for real safety and justice for all. Public safety must belong to us, the people.”
U.S. Reps Bobby Rush (D-1st) and Robin Kelly (D-2nd) both called for further police reform, with Kelly writing that Congress should pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would create a national police misconduct registry and limit qualified immunity for police officers.
"This is a drop in the bucket of justice," said Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th). "Clearly we saw a knee being put on a man's neck that ultimately caused him to die. And no matter what color he was, it was wrong. The real justice will come with sentencing. It's one thing to be charged guilty, it's another to get time. Him getting 40 years is justice."
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said that "there has been accountability in this case."
"This national movement is real, and it's a cultural reckoning. Black people in America have been abused by the police for years, and I continue to say what I've been saying all along — it is time to act on the brutality, on the misconduct," she continued.
Among local officials, State Rep. Kambium Buckner (D-26th) and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle also issued statements on the verdict Tuesday afternoon. So did former President Barack Obama and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
Local residents react
At Posh Lash and Laser, 1652 E. 53rd St., owner Ingrid Cheatham and another employee watched the verdict come down with a couple of customers.
"We were happy. We were shocked — we didn't think he would be convicted for all charges. But I'm extremely happy, overwhelmed with emotion," she said. "I thought he would just get manslaughter, I thought it would just be minor."
Cheatham is hopeful the result could help lessen racial disparities in policing. "Going forward this makes me feel good. I feel like there's going to be more of a conscious effort to avoid deadly force, conscious effort to mellow out a situation," she said.
Anthony Smith said that Chauvin "got what he deserved" after kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes. "It's going to be a long way to go. I don't think police is going to come outright and do what they've done — I think it's going to change somewhat," he said. "More police officers on the force have to speak out against bad cops."
While walking her dog in Harold Washington Park, Jada Middleton said that she thought the verdict was "fair," but didn't think it represented real justice. "I'm really happy, I think this is a step in the right direction. But ultimately this is about accountability, this is not about justice," she said.
"I'm more hopeful with the new executive leadership with Biden from Trump — that's a step up — but with Adam Toledo and that video coming out we are still so far from where we ought to be."
David Muhammad, 18, said that though he's "not the type to be happy someone's in jail, justice was served." He recounted a couple of his own experiences with police — one good, one bad. Once, some of the people at a party he was attending had gotten "a little too excited." When police came to break it up, he said, "I could have got arrested, but instead they took me right home."
Conversely, at age 14 he was walking in Woodlawn one early evening when a police car pulled up next to him. "I was walking home — they pulled up right beside me, hopped out with their hands on their guns," he recalled. "I put my hands up, but they searched me right there .... They said there had been a robbery going on and they searched me to see if I had a gun. I just complied, did not do anything wrong."
"I think what happened today should keep happening," he said. "This actually was justice, this is something we've been begging for for years."