Nightly vigils began T Unitarian Society of Germantown (USG) in early June, about a week after the killing of Floyd, and lasted until early December. They returned again the night after the verdict.
Former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted a week ago Tuesday of murder and manslaughter for pinning George Floyd to the pavement with his knee on the Black man’s neck in a case that triggered worldwide protests, violence, and a furious reexamination of racism and policing in the U.S.
Locally reaction has come in from politicians and activists, as horns blared near the Unitarian Society of Germantown (USG) where vigils started up again the night after the verdict was read.
Mt. Airy resident Mary Kalyna, an organizer of the vigils, noted that their nightly vigils began in early June, about a week after the killing of Floyd, and lasted until early December when they were put on hold due to the weather and increasing concerns over the spread of Covid-19.
“It’s been quite an amazing 24 hours. I and everyone connected with the vigils are happy and relieved and see this as a step in the right direction for the progress of the Black Lives Matter movement and racial justice in general,” Kalyna said. “We have resumed the vigils and are recommitting ourselves to advocating for reform in policy and policing and prosecution within the criminal justice system. “
When she learned the verdicts had come in Tuesday afternoon less than 24 hours after closing arguments in a case that the world was watching, Kalyna said she had some concerns.
“When I heard the jury came back, I was a nervous wreck even though the evidence was overwhelming, but when it happened we all started crying with the relief you feel when something difficult is over. Everyone felt it was an historic moment.”
“While this verdict offers us a collective moment of relief, I am nevertheless angered to live in a country where there’s suspense about whether a white law enforcement officer will be convicted for being on camera killing a Black person with impunity,” said Democratic State Representative Chris Rabb in a statement. Rabb’s district district represents portions of Northwest Philadelphia.
“Anything less than an overhaul of modern policing is complicity in a system borne of injustice, terror and surveillance, which for Pennsylvania has meant a 321-year track record of law enforcement protecting and serving the political interests and property of the most influential minority of our city and state without any history or commitment to transparency or accountability,” Rabb said.
Back at the Unitarian Society of Germantown Wednesday night, 24 hours after the verdict came in, USG Rev. Kent Matthias was one of 10 protesters holding signs for people to honk if they supported the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We are celebrating a correct and just verdict in the murder of George Floyd and we are recommitting ourselves to work for reform in policy, policing and prosecution in the entire criminal justice system,” he said. “We are committed to working on reform in every area of our lives. We see no end to gun violence that disproportionally affects people of color. It is tragic.”
Carla Campbell, a member of the church, was also at the vigil.
“We are out here celebrating and we were very concerned for the family and safety of the community if he (Chauvin) was acquitted,” said Campbell.
Mt. Airy resident Gerry Kaufmann, 88, was not shocked by the verdict.
“It’s pretty much what we’ve been expecting and I’m so excited to get a little bit of justice. I hope it’s the beginning of reformation. Do you think that’s possible?” Kauffman asked.
Mt. Airy resident Celeste Zappala, who is a regular at the vigils, broke down when she heard the verdict.
“I just cried I was so relieved and pleased that there was a modicum of justice. It’s very slow but a global step was taken with that verdict,” Zappala said.
Dennis Scott of Mt. Airy was the only African American at the vigil.
“I was halfway here and could hear the horns honking and that noise just makes me elated. I can hear that justice was served. Justice was served.”
Over in Springfield Township, Springfield Township Council Vice President Ed Graham, who started a racial justice committee had mixed feelings about the trial.
“It was a relief, to be perfectly honest, because the way the trial was going I was a little angry at the defense council as they were putting in other ways Mr. Floyd could have passed, like from inhaling carbon monoxide, to a heart problem, to his past drug problem. I was anxious but then so pleased that it seems that justice is being offered to our communities of color. We were looking for police officers to be held accountable for what he did and that is really what the relief is in the African American community right now. “