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People Gather In Des Moines To Share Thoughts On Chauvin Verdict

People gather at a sculpture park in downtown Des Moines to talk about a murder conviction reached in the killing of George Floyd.
Grant Gerlock
People gather at a sculpture park in downtown Des Moines to talk about a murder conviction reached in the killing of George Floyd.

A small crowd gathered at the Pappajohn Sculpture Park in downtown Des Moines Tuesday night in response to Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin’s conviction for the murder of George Floyd.

Organizers with The People’s Church in Des Moines brought a loudspeaker and boxes of pizza to the park and asked people to share their thoughts on the case that launched protests worldwide last summer and reached a conclusion Tuesday.

Josie Mulvihill took to the mic and urged the group to demand justice for others who have recently died at the hands of police.

“We still have to remember Adam Toledo,” Mulvihill said. “We still have to remember Daunte Wright. We even have to focus in locally about what’s happening because it’s not far away in Minneapolis or Chicago or Ohio. It’s happening here, too.”

Mulvihill called the verdict an immense relief, but bittersweet because incidents of police violence have continued across the country. In the same hour that the verdict was announced in Minneapolis, news spread that police in Columbus, Ohio had shot and killed a 15-year-old girl.

Pascha Morgan helped organize the event in Des Moines because he said he felt people needed a way to let their guard down following the Chauvin trial. He said the guilty verdict was a small victory, but it still felt like a momentum swing in favor of racial justice.

“It’s like in a basketball game,” Morgan said. “You make the basket. You feel that relief and that joy. You know you still have to go down to the other end of the court and defend, but at that moment you can feel that elation. And it’s okay, and it makes you want to run down to the end of that court and finish this game.”

Morgan said Floyd’s death caused more people to become aware of racial injustice, but he feels lasting change will take more time.

Racial justice activists in Des Moines called for continued pressure on local officials to take further steps to address police accountability following Chauvin’s conviction.

In a statement, the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement, which started in the wake of Floyd’s death, said their goals continue to include decriminalizing marijuana and defunding and abolishing police in Des Moines and elsewhere.

“We believe that justice will be served when no more blood from Black peoples’ bodies is spilled in the street. One murderous cop’s conviction isn’t enough to ensure it will never happen again.”

Waterloo reaction

People also gathered in downtown Waterloo Tuesday evening, where the Cedar Valley Antiracism Coalition held a rally and march after the guilty verdicts. Joy Briscoe was among those attending. She said the verdict relieved a lot of pressure she had been feeling during the trial, not knowing how the jury would decide.

“That signifies to me that again, today is a starting point,” she said. “ We have to continue to have conversations, we have to continue to seek policy that creates change and we have to build off of it.”

Briscoe directs the 24/7 Black Leadership Advancement Consortium. She echoed one of the speakers at the rally who said people have short attention spans, and it’s essential to begin immediately planning the next steps in work toward racial justice.

Grant Gerlock is a reporter covering Des Moines and central Iowa