‘This Is Not A Celebration, This Is A Continuation’: St. Louis Activists React To Chauvin Guilty Verdict
Activists gathered outside St. Louis City Hall on Tuesday evening to praise the verdict against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd, but they said much more racial justice work still needs to be done.
The jury found Chauvin guilty on all counts for Floyd’s murder last summer.
Several dozen activists chanted, “It ain’t over” and “Black Lives Matter” over blaring car horns as they blocked off the intersection of Market Street and Tucker Boulevard. Some cars drove around the activists, and police vehicles later blocked off the streets to traffic.
The Rev. Darryl Gray, who has led or participated in dozens of protests in the past year, said into a megaphone, “Just because one got caught doesn’t change a culture.”
“This is not a celebration, this is a continuation.”
Gray said he was celebrating Tishaura Jones’ inauguration Tuesday as the city’s first Black woman to become mayor, but he said that representation “won’t change the system.” He called for activists, especially young people, to keep pushing for justice and a change in policing.
He’s talking about people like 20-year-old Ishmaiah Moore, who has grown up protesting in the streets.
Moore said she came to speak at the gathering and to support others because she feels it’s important for people who want to react collectively to unite in a city.
“I don’t think the courts bring justice,” she said in an interview. “This is one step forward and a long way to go.”
Moore said it’s important for people to find joy where they can, but she hopes St. Louisans channel their energy into demanding justice from their own police department.
“I want St. Louis to know that the fight that we started for Michael Brown is continuing, and so just to keep that energy up,” she said.
Eighteen-year-old Marquis Govan, who also spoke at the gathering, said the verdict is a win. But he doesn’t want people to forget that St. Louis hasn’t seen that kind of accountability.
He said St. Louis still has a lot of challenges with inequality and police brutality.
“It is very important that we reimagine public safety in a way that serves people, in a way that invests in peoples’ communities, because police are a reactionary response. They arrive after a crime has already taken place,” he said. “We need to start investing in the most marginalized places within our community, and that’s how we tackle crime.”
Just as Gray began to wrap up the evening, state Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, got the crowd of activists clapping and dancing.
“We can’t stop. We gotta continue to protest, we gotta continue to make noise,” he said.
“You don't see too many times a police officer going to jail. You don’t see a mother who at the end of the day her son isn’t coming home but at least the pendulum swung and said ‘guilty,’ and said he will go behind bars. Because Darren Wilson and so many others we’ve seen have not.”
Many other St. Louis area leaders weighed in on the verdict on Twitter and elsewhere, including Jones and St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden.
Jones said in a statement that she is relieved to finally see consequences for when officers violate the trust of people they are sworn to protect.
“We will not become complacent, though, as we have plenty of work to do to continue transforming the Department of Public Safety to rebuild the relationship with our communities,” the mayor said.
My statement on the guilty verdict in the murder of George Floyd: pic.twitter.com/6l3WlvvFIK— Mayor Tishaura O. Jones (@saintlouismayor) April 20, 2021
Hayden said in a statement that he supported the verdicts.
“Now is the time to begin the process mending the broken relationship which exists between our department and the communities that we serve,” he said.
Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Louis County, spoke during a press conference held by the Congressional Black Caucus.
“Black folks in this country, all we’re asking is our lives matter,” she said. “This was accountability, but it’s not yet justice. Justice for us is saving lives.”
Reporters Jonathan Ahl and Kayla Drake contributed to this report.
Follow Corinne on Twitter: @corinnesusan