As former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted Tuesday afternoon of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, people waiting outside the courthouse and city erupted in emotion.
People elated by the verdict flooded the surrounding streets downtown upon hearing the news. Car horns blared, and people ran through traffic, waving banners.
Black Americans from Missouri to Florida to Minnesota cheered, marched, hugged, waved signs and sang jubilantly in the streets. But they also tempered those celebrations with the heavy knowledge that Chauvin's conviction was just a first, tiny step on the long road to address centuries of racist policing in a nation founded on slavery.
Many said they had prepared for a different result after watching countless deaths of people of color at the hands of police go unpunished. The shooting death of another Black man, Daunte Wright, by officers in suburban Minneapolis during the trial and of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago last month heightened tensions and muted the court victory for many.
"We are relieved but not celebrating because the killing continues," the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who traveled to Minneapolis for the verdict, said in a telephone interview. "We hope this is the breaking point to stop legal lynching."
Floyd family members gathered at a Minneapolis conference room could be heard cheering from the next room as each verdict was read.
After the verdict, Floyd's family received a call from President Joe Biden.
Video: President Biden calls George Floyd's family
Biden told the family, "Nothing is going to make it all better, but at least now there is some justice."
He added, "We’re all so relieved."
In St. Louis, Missouri, a police association of predominantly Black officers called the verdict important but "a pebble in the ocean."
"This victory is small but historical. Yet, why should we be thankful for something that is right? Why should we be thankful when George Floyd doesn’t have his life or his future?" the Ethical Society of Police, which represents about 260 St. Louis officers, said in a statement. "We all need to continue to fight for a change. ... We need change to end this systemic racism."
Still, the verdict buoyed others who saw the trial as a litmus test for how sincere Americans are about racial justice and consequential police reform after Floyd's death set off global protests. Jurors in the high-profile case deliberated for 10 hours over two days. Chauvin was handcuffed and taken into custody immediately after the verdict was read.
"It means so much to me," said Venisha Johnson, a Black woman who cried at a gathering in what's been dubbed George Floyd Square in Minneapolis.
"I’ve been praying for George every day, every morning at 6 a.m. I’m just so happy. The way he was murdered was terrible! But thank you, Jesus."
Video: Hundreds celebrate at Floyd Square after verdict
In Houston's Third Ward, the historically Black neighborhood where Floyd grew up, a small crowd gathered under a tent near a mural of Floyd to listen as the verdict was read on TV. People driving by honked their car horns and yelled, "Justice!"
"We feeling good. We thank everybody that stood with us. It’s a blessed moment," said Jacob David, 39, who knew Floyd and wiped away tears.
The verdict was read in a courthouse ringed with concrete barriers and razor wire and patrolled by National Guard troops, in a city on edge against another round of unrest — not just because of the Chauvin case but because of the deadly police shooting of a young Black man, Daunte Wright, in a Minneapolis suburb April 11.
Video: People outside of the courthouse react to Derek Chauvin's conviction for killing George Floyd
Floyd’s death on May 25 as Chauvin pressed a knee to his neck and the graphic bystander video that captured him pleading that he couldn't breathe shocked and appalled the world and triggered protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
"We’ve just become so accustomed to not receiving justice. I’m just so very, very overwhelmed right now," said Tesia Lisbon, a community activist in Florida’s capital of Tallahassee.
Lisbon was one of 19 people arrested by police last September during a Black Lives Matter march.
"We just got so used to not hearing good news, to not having the justice system on your side for so long," Lisbon said.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison commended the bystanders at Floyd's slow-motion death who "raised their voices because they knew that what they were seeing was wrong," and then "told the whole world" what they saw.
Ellison read off the names of others killed in encounters with police and said: “This has to end. We need true justice. That’s not one case. That’s social transformation that says no one is beneath the law and no one is above it.”
Cities across the country had prepared ahead of the verdict in case of civil unrest like what happened across the world last year in reaction to George Floyd's death.
Video: George Floyd's family celebrates after guilty verdict
Former President Barack Obama tweeted in support of the verdict:
"Today, a jury did the right thing. But true justice requires much more. Michelle and I send our prayers to the Floyd family, and we stand with all those who are committed to guaranteeing every American the full measure of justice that George and so many others have been denied."
Lawmakers from both parties are expressing satisfaction with Tuesday’s guilty verdict of former police officer Derek Chauvin for murder and manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd.
California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters said: "I’m not celebrating, I’m relieved."
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the chamber’s only Black Republican, said he is thankful for a verdict that shows "our justice system continues to become more just."
Republican leaders were cautious in what they said after the verdict.
"It’s jury’s decision. I hope — you know, I think they can appeal whether or not he got a fair trial, but I told everybody that this is the way the system works," said GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. "I accept the jury’s verdict and leave it up to the court."
GOP Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst said, "I guess I’m in agreement" with the jury’s decision.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California expressed thanks to Floyd "for sacrificing your life for justice." Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said Congress must keep working on legislation "to bring meaningful change" to police departments.
Video: Rep. Cori Bush reacts to Chauvin conviction
Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock said he hopes the verdict will let "people who have seen this trauma over and over again" know the nation’s laws can give them equal protection. Warnock is pastor of the Atlanta church once led by the Rev. Martin Luther King.
Meanwhile, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz released a statement shortly after the verdict was read.
"Today's verdict is an important step forward for justice in Minnesota. The trial is over, but our work has only begun," his statement read in part.