Hours after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of the murder of George Floyd, dozens of community members gathered in White Plaza on Tuesday evening to commemorate Floyd and reflect on the verdict in an event supported by Student Affairs and the Office for Religious and Spiritual Life.
“I was not hopeful, I have to admit that,” Associate Vice Provost for Inclusion and Community Emelyn dela Peña said in reference to Chauvin’s conviction while speaking to the crowd. “But today I share with you that I know there are feelings of joy. That yes, this happened.”
Peña said that in addition to the joy that community members may be feeling in response to Chauvin’s conviction, she hoped the event would allow participants to express feelings of anger in response to ongoing police brutality.
“We are gathering in this space to hold community and hold all the multiple reactions that we have to what we have witnessed,” she said.
Later at the event, Associate Dean for Religious & Spiritual Life Amina Darwish recited a prayer with the theme of upholding justice.
“When the verdict was called out, Derek’s face had shock upon it,” Darwish told the crowd. “He thought that the system was going to continue to protect him.”
Senior Associate Dean for Religious & Spiritual Life and Minister of Memorial Church Sakena Young-Scaggs expressed solidarity with Floyd and the Black community, saying, “We stand together in this historic moment. We stand witness.”
“It is this moment that we must remember,” Young-Scaggs continued, explaining that the vigil would be pivotal in creating “momentum to move towards change.”
After her remarks, Young-Scaggs handed out white and tan ribbons to participants to “mark the many ways we are experiencing this moment.” Many participants hung up their ribbons on trees or wrote messages on them.
“Let the ribbons be symbols of silent voices,” she said. “Symbols of our connected care as a community.”
Dean for Religious & Spiritual Life Tiffany Steinwert also led students in prayer and blessings for Floyd and his family.
“Teach us how to be present with and for each other as we reckon with the history of racism and division,” Steinwert said.
Some students who attended the event said they appreciated the space to reflect as a community.
“I thought that tonight’s event was a great way to capture the enthusiasm of the moment-of one police officer being convicted for his crimes — yet also acknowledging the continuing struggle against police brutality,” Sean Michael ’23 said. “It was also great that the event included worship in many different religions, which gave me a better idea of the ubiquity of justice as a religious concept.”