Small gatherings, celebrations spring up in Southern California following Chauvin verdicts

Shep Crawford was driving to Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon unsure of what the world might look when he got there, with the verdicts soon to be read in the case of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd last year.

Then he heard it: Chauvin was guilty on all three counts. Crawford, the senior pastor at Experience Christian Ministries in South Los Angeles, shouted with joy in his car.

All the anxiety that had built up around this moment suddenly vanished.

His daughter called him minutes later, shocked.

“I want to get to a point where she doesn’t find it weird or unusual that we get justice,” Crawford said. “This is a moment. We have to make sure it continues to be a movement.”

Crawford gathered with other faith leaders from around L.A. at the top of Grand Park on Tuesday, one of many jubilant, small gatherings that popped up around the region in response to the three guilty verdicts.

At another gathering in the late afternoon, about 40 people waved signs as honking cars passed by at the corner of Florence and Normandie avenues in South L.A. Music played and the celebratory crowd cheered.

Posters calling for justice for Floyd covered the polls of nearby street lights. In chalk, people wrote on the sidewalk: “Black Lives Matter,” and “George Floyd.”

“This is a victory,” one man chanted over a megaphone.

“Today is a small victory of just one killer cop being convicted,” said Marcus Wright, 34, of South Los Angeles. “The movement doesn’t stop until we stop dying at the hands of police.”

The scene Tuesday came nearly three decades after violence erupted at that same intersection, when another verdict in a police brutality case — the acquittal of four LAPD officers seen beating Rodney King on video — led to the Los Angeles riots in 1992.

Floyd’s killing last year galvanized millions of people to hit the streets in protest. In L.A., street battles erupted between police and demonstrators. A year later, the fallout of the response is still settling, with the L.A. Police Commission considering a fleet of reforms after several reports faulted LAPD’s tactics confronting the protesters last May and June.

Still, on Tuesday, some demonstrators said the Chauvin verdicts were just a small step to greater police accountability.

“This isn’t a huge win,” said Cameron Roy, 29, Inglewood. “So many cops have gotten away with murdering the people they say they protect.”

“We can’t win until we’re all safe,” he added. “And those cops face justice for their violence.”

And some had reservations that justice would be fully served.

“This ain’t justice,” said Byron Jackson. “He (Chauvin) is going to get the minimum punishment. And he’s not going to a real jail, they’ll put him in Disneyland.”

Hours earlier, a Minnesota jury found former Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter for killing Floyd. The guilty verdicts were broadcast live across the nation.

Bystander video caught Chauvin pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, as Floyd gasped repeatedly, said “I can’t breathe” and slowly went silent and limp. Floyd’s death drew widespread condemnation, sparked demonstrations across the country and led numerous cities and states to re-visit the use of force, police funding and policies of local law enforcement agencies.

As the Chauvin trial wound to a close on Monday, law enforcement agencies across Southern California said they were entering a state of readiness, preparing for more protests and unrest if the verdicts came up “not guilty.”

The Los Angeles Police Department announced a citywide tactical alert at around 12:30 p.m. Officials called the alert precautionary. The city of Los Angeles announced they were shutting down vaccination sites — including one at Dodger Stadium — simply as a precaution.

For weeks, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and LAPD Chief Michel Moore had urged residents to protest peacefully. Both said they were prepared to call on the California National Guard for assistance like they did last year in the face of intense protests. Last week, the sheriff and police chief joined a group of around two dozen faith and community leaders to plead for calm.

Other cities that saw protests last year — including Long Beach, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica — also said they were taking steps to put more police on the streets in anticipation. As of the late afternoon, there were no major demonstrations in Orange County, where sheriff’s department officials said they had around 150 deputies ready to deploy if needed.

Outside the Getty House, the official residence of all L.A. mayors in Hancock Park, around 50 protesters with Black Lives Matter unfurled their flags and chanted after the verdicts. As they often have since last year’s protests, they called on Moore to be fired.

Elsa Hutchinson was there with two generations of her family: Her daughter Diane and her 18-year-old grandson Amir Greenidge. Like others, she celebrated the result of the trial but had misgivings about what it meant for changes to the justice system in the U.S.

“I’m extremely happy (the verdict) went the way it did,” Hutchinson said. “But we can’t just put our hands up and say that we’re doing better.”

BLM organizers continued to call on Mayor Eric Garcetti to shift funding away from LAPD and toward homelessness and mental health. She called for LAPD to be defunded.

“We’re here to demand a moral budget, which must mean divesting from policing,” said Tabatha Jones Jolivet, of BLM’s L.A. chapter.

The mayor’s house has been a site of showdowns between protesters and police in the past, but on Tuesday, LAPD’s presence was light. Just four officers stood off to the side.

At Grand Park in Los Angeles, pastors said they would continue to press for more changes to American policing.

Standing on the steps just southeast of Grand Avenue, within sight of the towering columns and glass walls of the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, Pastor Elton Johnson of Metropolitan Baptist Church downtown said the movement to end biased policing wouldn’t end Tuesday.

“We still have work to do,” he said.

Later Tuesday, a group occupied the intersection of Fairfax Avenue and Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles and marked nine minutes of silence. They then marched up and down Beverly before leaders of the demonstration said they were calling it a night.

During the march the demonstrators were followed by well over two dozen officers. They faced off in formation with a line of protesters, and eventually fell back before protesters headed back the way they came. No arrests had been reported as of about 10:35 p.m.

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