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The Mood On The Ground In Minneapolis

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Our top story today - former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin found guilty of three counts of murder and manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd. In Minneapolis, crowds gathered today at George Floyd Square to celebrate that verdict.

(CHEERING, APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Well, Minnesota Public Radio's Matt Sepic is there at George Floyd Square.

Hi there again, Matt.

MATT SEPIC, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Hi. Take us back to that moment a few hours ago, when the verdict was read. What was it like?

SEPIC: Well, it was about 4 1/2 hours ago now, and it was really quite an electric moment. I was standing on Chicago Avenue, just a few yards from where George Floyd was killed under Derek Chauvin's knee on May 25. A crowd gathered really very quickly once we got word that the jury had reached a verdict. I was standing next to a man who brought a portable battery-powered speaker and rigged it up to his phone. And I could hear Judge Peter Cahill reading off the guilty verdicts on all three counts. And each time, you could hear a cheer erupt from the crowd, really a roar - a lot of jubilation here today.

KELLY: Yeah. And what specifically were people saying when you were out in the crowd talking to people?

SEPIC: Well, the biggest thing that I heard from people is relief. There was so much anxiety ahead of this verdict and, really, throughout the three weeks of the trial and the three weeks of jury selection and, really, the 11 months since George Floyd was killed. Would the officer who did this be held accountable? And people here were relieved to find out that he indeed is being held accountable. But there is also the sense that this is just the beginning, that reforms are needed. We heard this from public officials in their speeches following the verdict that much more needs to be done on the policy level in the state legislature, in Congress to ensure that these types of things don't keep happening.

KELLY: And what about now? How many people are out? What is the mood?

SEPIC: Well, it's getting pretty chilly here. The sun is starting to set, but I see no signs of this crowd thinning out at all. In fact, I see even more people coming in from all directions. The street here - 38th Street and Chicago Avenue - has been closed off to traffic by protesters and other people holding vigil here for the last 11 months. And people are walking through those barricades, people pushing strollers, a crowd, you know, young and older, families, people of all races and backgrounds here gathered in celebrating this event. Barbecue grill going - it's quite a party. And I think it's going to go on for some time into the night.

KELLY: Well, and if I may note, it's so different from what some people were bracing for. You've been among the reporters telling us about the outsized security presence in Minneapolis and many other cities preparing for - they weren't sure quite what if the verdict had gone another way.

SEPIC: Right. I mean, there was major concern here on the part of the mayor, on the part of Governor Tim Walz, that we could see the sort of unrest that we saw in that last week of May, when Floyd was killed. We had a lot of looting, rioting, really, for three nights in Minneapolis and into St. Paul.

KELLY: Right.

SEPIC: And there was big concern that that would happen again, and that's why they called up National Guard and even out-of-state state police to come and assist.

KELLY: Terrific news that it has not.

Matt Sepic of Minnesota Public Radio, thanks.

SEPIC: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.