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Tensions make way to joy after jury delivers guilty verdict in Derek Chauvin case

Even before the jury's decision was made public on Tuesday, state officials called for peace as demonstrations went on in the Twin Cities and possible civil unrest was expected.

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Local residents Mileesha Smith, left, Michael Wilson and Alfonzo Williams embrace at George Floyd Square in Minneapolis Tuesday, April 20, 2021, after the verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, found guilty of the death of George Floyd. (REUTERS/Adrees Latif)
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ST. PAUL — Tension and anxiety turned to joy in the streets of Minneapolis Tuesday, April 20, as a Hennepin County jury handed down guilty convictions in a landmark trial of a former Minneapolis police officer.

News that jurors convicted Derek Chauvin of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd turned the mood in the Twin Cities, at least for a few hours. And it led state law enforcement officials to begin discussing the demobilization of police forces monitoring for civil unrest.

Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington on Tuesday evening said officers would remain in the Twin Cities overnight but noted that leaders had urged them to use patience and restraint in dealing with demonstrators. And unlike in May and June, when Floyd's death spurred demonstrations along with looting and rioting, Harrington said there would be no curfew in place Tuesday night.

"We stand ready to take action if necessary but we are, as a profession, we stand with the community," Harrington said. "This is an act of justice and it's time for all of us to be on the same page, be marching toward that justice together."

Harrington and Gov. Tim Walz had prepared state and local law enforcement for extensive civil unrest in the event protesters became frustrated in the court's decision. Walz on Monday, April 19, declared a state of emergency in the seven-county Twin Cities metro area ahead of a possible verdict and requested law enforcement support from Nebraska and Ohio.

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Members of the National Guard are seen at the Hennepin County Government Center Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in anticipation of a verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd. (REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

READ MORE:

  • Derek Chauvin guilty on all charges in death of George Floyd George Floyd's final moments were captured on bystander video and viewed by millions of people around the world in a matter of hours. The incident became one of the most infamous police encounters in history, sparking unprecedented international protests and renewed discussion about race and policing.
  • 'True justice comes through real change': Minnesota officials react to Derek Chauvin guilty verdict One day after legal arguments concluded in the trial against former-Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd, a jury found Chauvin guilty on all three charges.
  • 'Murder' or 'authorized use of force?' Quotes from Derek Chauvin trial closing arguments Here are select quotes from summations to the jury by prosecuting attorney Steve Schleicher of the Minnesota attorney general's office, defense attorney Eric Nelson and prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell, who rebutted Nelson's presentation.
  • Minnesota calls in out-of-state police back-up ahead of decision in Chauvin case The Senate advanced the $9 million plan to support state troopers and law enforcement groups from outside the state in responding to the Twin Cities.

The governor in his executive order said state and local law enforcement weren't able to address the possible threat posed by civil unrest as they'd been stretched covering demonstrations in Brooklyn Center after a police officer shot and killed Daunte Wright , 20, on Sunday, April 11, during a traffic stop.

The governor and commissioner in a Tuesday evening news conference expressed relief at the jury's decision and said the state would start stepping down the law enforcement presence in the coming days.

In the streets of Minneapolis, groups gathered to take in the news applauded the decision Tuesday afternoon and celebrated the historic conviction. Attorney General Keith Ellison said the decision was "the first step toward justice" but said the state and nation needed to do more to address racism in policing. And he asked that demonstrators respond to the news "calmly, legally and peacefully."

Demonstrators for days had gathered at the Minneapolis intersection where Wright was killed and in nearby suburb Brooklyn Center. At times, interactions between protesters and police became violent.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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