Activists hope Chauvin convictions are start to real change

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In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, stands after the verdict is read in his trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. Standing next to him are attorneys Eric Nelson, left and Amy Voss. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

MINNEAPOLIS – “One down, three to go!” went the chant just minutes after Derek Chauvin was convicted in George Floyd’s death — a reference to three more fired officers who are awaiting trial.

While the verdict was celebrated by activists and brought a sense of relief, talk soon turned to ambitions for greater change outside the courtroom.

Activists, Floyd’s family members and some public officials said Chauvin's convictions on murder and manslaughter charges were just a start, and they will continue to push for systemic change in policing in Minneapolis and beyond.

“We need true justice," Attorney General Keith Ellison, who led the team that prosecuted Chauvin, said after Tuesday's verdict. "That is a social transformation that says that nobody’s beneath the law, and no one is above it.”

But transformation looks different to different people. Some activists support efforts to “defund” police departments, while others call for less dramatic change. Some actually want more police officers, not fewer.

And there are significant headwinds for all the plans, ranging from nervous voters in Minneapolis to Republicans at the Legislature to the difficulty of passing significant reform in Congress.

Floyd’s brother Philonise is among those calling for passage of a federal law, named after Floyd, that would end “qualified immunity” for officers and set national policing standards in an attempt to bolster accountability. The measure stalled last summer in the Republican-led U.S. Senate, just months before Democrats narrowly took control of the chamber.

“You have so many people who have their blood on that bill,” Philonise Floyd said Wednesday on NBC’s “Today” show. He named Eric Garner and his brother as he talked about the bill’s ban on chokeholds. He also said police should be required to keep their dashboard and body cameras on at all times.