Queer New Yorkers marched through the streets and LGBTQ groups, leaders, and lawmakers spoke up in response to the guilty verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin on April 20.
Demonstrations popped up across the city, including in Brooklyn, where an emotional march proceeded from Barclays Center to Grand Army Plaza after dark. Some signs read, “Stop Killing Us,” while others called for an end to NYPD violence. Paintings of George Floyd were raised in the air on full display.
While some folks were marching through the city, others across the nation were issuing calls to action on a day when, just as the verdict was announced, news emerged that police in Columbus, Ohio, shot and killed a teenager, Ma’Khia Bryant. Earlier in the day ProPublica reported that the NYPD would not be disciplining officers involved in the fatal police shooting of Kawaski Trawick, a queer Black man who was killed in his own home in 2019.
“Thankfully today, a jury affirmed that George Floyd’s life matters,” David Johns, the executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, an LGBTQ civil rights group, said in a written statement. “Still, we must continue to guard our joy, pray for those most impacted, and remain focused on the work required to ensure that all of our Black Lives Matter. What we need is structural change… Let the legacy of this trial provide us with opportunities to deal with the root causes that led to this moment — that Derek Chauvin thought it was appropriate to engage in lethal conduct — because he had no fear of his actions.”
Johns stressed that true justice in the case would have only been possible if Floyd lived to see the outcome of the trial — a point that was echoed by other leaders, including Imani Rupert-Gordon, the executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
“Justice would be George Floyd with his family tonight,” Rupert-Gordon said in a Twitter post. “It may not be justice, but today is proof that people in the streets pave the way to victories in the courts. I hope the Floyd family can rest a little easier.”
Raquel Willis, an activist who helped spearhead the historic “Brooklyn Liberation” march for Black trans lives last year, encouraged folks to keep pushing for change after the verdict.
“George Floyd’s murder pushed many people to think more deeply about how white supremacy functions in our society,” Willis said. “Regardless of the verdict and what is said about Chauvin, we need people to stay engaged and motivated in the fight to end systems of oppression.”
LGBTQ legal groups also responded to the verdict by emphasizing the need to maintain the work to eradicate racism and police brutality across the nation.
“We know… that there is more work to do to ensure what we all watched happen on video to George Floyd never happens again,” Lambda Legal said in a written statement. “We will continue to work with our sibling LGBTQ organizations and other civil rights organizations to fight to make sure that police are properly protecting and serving all the public, including LGBTQ people and people living with HIV.”
Janson Wu, executive director of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, said the verdict delivered “a measure of accountability” but is only one step.
“Accountability for police violence is still too rare,” Wu said. “And for Black and Brown communities across the country, the nightmare and loss experienced by George Floyd’s family is too common and too persistent a threat. We must continue the work of confronting systemic racism in policing, end qualified immunity, and invest in our communities to create a system of public safety that is focused on safety for all rather than inherently deadly to some.”
Out gay Congressmembers Ritchie Torres of the Bronx and Mondaire Jones of Northern Westchester and Rockland County both said the jury’s conviction served as an example of accountability, but they acknowledged the broader work necessary to generate change.
“I hope the outcome of the trial represents not an exception but the emergence of a new rule: that no officer is above the law,” Torres said. “Derek Chauvin never would have been convicted had it not been for the revolution in racial consciousness that has taken hold in America. Mass mobilization matters in pursuing justice not only on the streets but also in the courtroom.”
Like many others, Jones underscored the message that “this verdict is not full justice, for in a just world, George Floyd would still be alive.”
“In a just world, Adam Toledo and Daunte Wright would be in their mothers’ arms right now,” said Jones, who voiced support for the passage of legislation to end qualified immunity for police officers and called for an end to chokeholds and no-knock warrants. “In a just world, we would not be faced with a near-daily onslaught of officers assaulting, harassing, and murdering Black people simply for existing.”
Andrea Jenkins, a Minneapolis councilmember who is the first out Black transgender woman elected to office in the US, praised the jurors in her home city for reaching a guilty verdict.
“Today our city, our nation took a step towards justice, a step towards accountability, a step towards equity,” Jenkins said. “It continues to give us hope to keep fighting for justice. They said the world was watching; today those 12 jurors showed up. Thank you.”