‘Felt like I was able to breathe’: Relief in Tampa for many after guilty verdict in Chauvin trial

Hillsborough County

TAMPA (WFLA) – Some of the largest local demonstrations in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd took place around the University of South Florida campus.

On Tuesday afternoon, a small group gathered on Fowler Avenue to protest proposed USF budget cuts, but around 5 p.m. the students were glued to their phones as they awaited the verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial.

The group cheered as they learned the jury found the ex-Minneapolis police officer guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

One student shouted “Justice for George Floyd,” the rally cry heard around the country since last May.

“I think real justice is George Floyd would be here today,” said Taylor Cook, an organizer with Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society.

8 On Your Side asked Cook if she thought the guilty verdict would have been reached without the video shown around the world of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck.

“I think the video was extremely powerful for getting people to realize how terrible the brutality of george floyd’s murder was,” Cook said. “I think it was more about the power of the people. I think the mass protests really pushed them to put out that verdict.”

President of the Hillsborough County NAACP Yvette Lewis said she “felt like I was able to breathe” upon learning the resolution to the Chauvin trial.

“No matter what color you are, no matter what type of uniform you have on, but if you take someone’s life you have to be held accountable for it,” Lewis said.

While she is relieved to see Chauvin held accountable, Lewis told 8 On Your Side reforms are still needed in the criminal justice system.

“We’ve got to make sure the scale is balanced and fair and equal justice and no one’s civil rights is being violated,” she said.

Cook told 8 On Your Side her organization was prepared for much larger protests this week had the jury returned a not guilty verdict.

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