Michael Johnson, the CEO of the Boys and Girls Club, invited a dozen Dane County community leaders, including Dr. Ruben Anthony, Shon Barnes and Anthony Cooper Sr., to watch the live coverage of the verdict of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvins trial on Tuesday.
Moments before the verdict was read, those in the room anxiously awaited the jury’s decision. Following the announcement, Cooper, the president of the local advocacy group Focused Interruption said that he was concerned that Chauvin would be found innocent.
"I was hopeful but at the same time still nervous, because we've seen this all play out before and it actually went the other way," Cooper said.
The room of community leaders applauded once the verdict was announced: Chauvin was guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd last May.
“I cried,” Johnson said in an interview with Channel 3000.
Johnson had doubts about if the trial would end in conviction because he has seen other officers be found innocent in the past.
“When you see these incidents happen time and time again, sometimes you question whether or not our judicial system would do the right thing and today they did,” Johnson said.
Cooper echoed Johnson's frustration with the way trials against officers normally turn out and was content with Chauvin’s verdict.
“Finally there's actually justice that's been served," said Cooper.
District 8 Alder, Juliana Bennett told the Cardinal she felt relieved when she heard the results of the trial.
“It's just a huge weight off of my chest and off of all of ours.”
Community leaders agree that while Tuesday was a celebratory day, there is more work that needs to be done regarding policing.
Bennett voiced her opinion that the outcome of the trial is not indicative of justice and that sweeping reforms to the criminal justice system are necessary to avoid future discrimination.
“It’s still not justice for George Floyd or justice for all Black people. Accountability is not justice. Justice would be living in an America that didn't take the lives of so many people at the hands of the police every single year.”
Madison Police Chief, Shon Barnes, was in the room with Johnson and others. He hopes for a day where accountability and justice is the standard for trails against police officers.
“I was a little disappointed, and I’ll tell you why, because we were all waiting with bated breath for a decision that should not have been a surprise,” Barnes said. “I think that when we get to a point where justice is so apparent to everyone that we’re not surprised, we’re showing real progress.”
Madison leaders are ambitious to use their positions as a means of continuing police reform.
When discussing police brutality with Channel 3000, Barnes states that by being chief it is his duty to create a positive culture in the Madison Police Department.
“As a Black man I understand it, as a police officer I acknowledge it, but as a police leader I apologize for it,” Barnes said. “Because policing is global and I have to look within myself and my leadership, I have to be held accountable for the things that I say and the culture I set forth in my police department.”
Bennett is also a member of the BIPOC coalition at UW-Madison and was recently appointed to the city’s Public Safety Review Team. She emphasized that activists and leaders must continue advocating for change.
“While we can finally exhale that breath, we need to inhale the responsibilities that we have moving forward to bring about justice.”
Bennett stated that as Alder she will work to reallocate money spent on policing to other community programs and was surprised when she found out the Madison police department receives more funding than any other city program.
“We need to defund the police and take away money from their budget and put it into community centered help. It's ridiculous how much money we pour into our police department. Money that we should be pouring into the community.”
Civilians gathered at the capitol on Tuesday in celebration of the verdict.
“We’re Still Waiting For Justice For So Many More” was chalked on the capitol steps and chanted throughout the demonstration.
The advocates brought attention to Tony Robinson, who was killed by the Madison police department in 2015 and Daunte Wright, a Black Minnesota man who was killed by a police officer during Chauvin’s trial.