DES MOINES, Iowa — A jury convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd on Tuesday.
Chauvin was found guilty on all charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The second-degree murder count, the most serious charge, carries up to 40 years in prison.
The guilty verdict is what community activists in the metro have been calling for, but their fight for justice doesn’t end today. Many of them were preparing for not guilty verdicts, so they were shocked by the outcome and say it is an important first step in the continued fight for racial justice.
“From the moment I woke up until just a few minutes ago, I felt nervous. I felt trepidation. I felt fear because for me it was finally the ultimate contest of will people be held accountable when they take the lives of Black people in this country?” said community activist Al Womble. “When I finally heard that verdict read, I felt like a weight had been lifted off me. I felt like I could be joyful again.”
Despite the relief, Womble and other community activists say there is still so much more work to be done to create a fair and just system for all. They expressed frustration with legislation that has passed and is pending at the Iowa statehouse. Womble and fellow community activist Rob Johnson are specifically concerned about the new elections law Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed as well as a bill the House passed last week that creates stiffer penalties for protesting and more protections for law enforcement officials.
“There’s work that we have to do to change this systemically. There are policies and there are laws on the books,” said Johnson. “This law that has been passed through the Iowa House right now is problematic for communities that look like me. This is just one step in the right direction. We have so many more steps to go.”
Johnson said there will be a community vigil in support of the Black community in central Iowa on Thursday at 6 p.m. in Evelyn K. Davis Park.