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Alvin Brooks wanted to be home for the news.
But instead, he was stopped at a traffic light at East Red Bridge and Grandview roads when he heard the news over the radio.
A jury had found Derek Chauvin guilty of all charges.
“I started hollering and applauding in the car. Thank God. Thank God. Justice is served,” Brooks, one of Kansas City’s most beloved civic leaders, said. “What a moment! Oh what this means for the conscious of this nation.”
Former Minneapolis police officer Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd last summer.
Chauvin held his knee to Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes last May. Floyd’s death led to protests across the country. Hundreds turned out for days in Kansas City.
As for Kansas City, Brooks said, “We can not let this just be a Minneapolis situation. This affects all of us. And the hour is now. That everyone stands up when there is injustice.”
He said the Civic Council, Chamber of Commerce and police department should take this as a sign to look inward and self reflect. Brooks served on the KC Board of Police Commissioners from 2010 to 2017.
“And I am hoping there will be those who will say to police and prosecutors you have to cooperate with one another,” Brooks said. “There must be collaboration on the right side of justice.”
For some Kansas Citians, the verdict felt like they could take a breath. Others said they thought of the families of others killed by police. And others called Tuesday’s news bittersweet.
Mayor Quinton Lucas posted on Twitter that “This was the right result — accountability.”
His post continued: “George Floyd should be alive today, as should many others. I appreciate the jury’s work. Now we must continue ours. Keep up the pressure.”
State Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove, a Kansas City Democrat on the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus, said in a statement that, “This conviction feels like a monumental and important step towards equality for communities of color who have experienced violence and discrimination at the hands of law enforcement for far too long.“
She added: “Our caucus hopes this ruling brings some measure of justice to Floyd’s family and friends.”
The Kansas City Police Department said in a statement that it supports “the criminal justice process and the outcome in which it resulted in this case. The announcement of the verdict will spark powerful emotions in our community. Everyone is entitled to express those emotions and make their thoughts heard. It is the Kansas City Missouri Police Department’s mission to safeguard and protect the Constitutional rights of all individuals participating in First Amendment activities and assemblies.”
Several Kansas City faith leaders organized a brief demonstration Tuesday afternoon in the 18th & Vine District, pointing to the outcome in Chauvin’s case as a victory and a step toward justice. But they cautioned that there is more work to be done.
“For 400 years, our people have been holding our breath. And it’s good to finally breathe a fresh air of justice in America,” said Rev. Darron Edwards, pastor of the United Believers Community Church.
Emanuel Cleaver III, pastor at St. James United Methodist Church, contrasted Chauvin’s trial and verdict with the infamous Rodney King case of 1993. He said the verdict Tuesday signals progress, but “we still need massive police reform.”
“Change is often slow. But we are moving in the right direction,” said Cleaver, who is the son of U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II. “And one thing we will never do is stop the struggle.”
Cassandra Wainwright, president of the Concerned Clergy Coalition, said the verdict was encouraging.
“This was not just a victory for Black America, it was a victory for justice,” she said.
The rally drew a small crowd of faith leaders and ended late Tuesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Brandon Henderson, a 21-year-old student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, said his reaction to the verdict is really hard to describe because he sees it as bittersweet.
“I don’t think that putting Derek Chauvin behind bars is truly justice,” he said. “I think the only type of justice would be if George Floyd was not murdered.”
Henderson, who attended protests in Kansas City over the past year, said that people can’t look at the verdict as if “things are cool now” and that the system is working.
He said the movement needs to continue to move forward and advocating for a world where Black people are not afraid of being killed by the police for just being Black.
Ryan Sorrell — a leader with Black Rainbow KC, an organization that fights for the liberation of all oppressed people — said he watched the verdict at home with his mom.
When the judge read the verdict, he said he felt numb.
“And I wanted to feel joy but I couldn’t. I wanted to convince myself that this was a positive thing,” Sorrell said.
But he felt torn between wanting to see accountability for the officer and balancing that with his belief that the existing court and incarceration systems are anti-Black institutions. Everywhere policing exists, Sorrell said, so does police brutality and white supremacy.
Sorrell said Kansas Citians have been demanding real justice and know that the current system is racist.
“Real justice for the people of Kansas City is we all have an equal opportunity to live and thrive,” Sorrell said, “which means affordable housing, education, healthcare, mental health.
“Because the naked violence of police murdering Black people is only the tip of the iceberg of how white supremacy and policing kills Black people.”
In a statement posted to social media, Black Rainbow wrote that even though the trial is over, the “conditions in KC/the US have not changed.”
The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office wrote in a statement: “Justice is served.”
Jackson County Executive Frank White issued a statement on Twitter, saying he watched the developments unfold “in fear” that Chauvin would “walk free after murdering a black man.”
“Today’s verdict is the result of men, women, and children of all ages and races standing together and saying, ‘Enough is Enough!’” White said.
Shortly after the verdict was announced, Patrick Mahomes posted a praying hands emoji on Twitter.
Gwen Grant, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, said she watched the verdict while working from home. She said she had a high level of anxiety while watching because the justice system has not worked in the past. She recalled watching the video of Rodney King being beaten by Los Angeles police officers and their later acquittal.
When the judge read the verdict, she took a sigh of relief.
“My hope is that we will see more charges filed, more prosecutions, more convictions,” Grant said, “that will hopefully send a strong message to law enforcement that they too will be held accountable for breaking the law.”
Grant said without local control and removal of police Chief Rick Smith, she doesn’t have much hope for change in Kansas City. She called for a leadership change, stronger deadly force policies and external investigations of community complaints.
“This is a this is a victory on the battlefield for justice, but we have not won the war,” Grant said.
Rev. Vernon Howard, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City, said that as he watched the verdict at home, he thought of all the other families who have lived through the same experience as Floyd’s.
He thought of the families who have had to relieve the pain and grief of losing their loved ones who police shot.
He thought of the families of Donnie Sanders, Cameron Lamb, Terrence Bridges and Ryan Stokes.
He thought of Stokes’ daughter, who has now gone eight years without a father.
“Because still in Kansas City, Black lives don’t matter,” Howard said. “And the proof is right before us.”
Howard said the verdict signals a shift in the country. However, he said, Kansas City remains stuck in a cycle of police brutality.
“Let’s keep in mind as we applaud the courage of the jury and celebrate this decision that George Floyd never should have died ... we have much more work to do.”
Community activist Justice Horn said he watched the verdict with a friend at City Hall. When the judge said the jury found Chauvin guilty on all three counts, Horn said he had chills.
“This is finally a moment for us to breathe,” Horn said. “We have been on edge for a year. This is the justice we were talking about. This is a step in the right direction.”
The Star’s Jeanne Kuang, Glenn E. Rice, Mará Rose Williams, Bob Cronkleton and Bill Lukitsch contributed to this story.