Local pastor and activist Devante Hill was outside the courthouse in Downtown Minneapolis Tuesday (April 20) when the Derek Chauvin verdict was read.
“I was overwhelmed with emotion,” Hill said. “It seems like it was 400 years overdue. America needs a heart transplant. Grassroots activists all over the country have driven this movement. No longer will we reach for low-hanging fruit. We want life-changing, transformational reform.”
Chauvin is a former Minneapolis police officer, who was convicted by a jury for the murder of an African-American man, George Floyd, who died while Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck in a Memorial Day 2020 confrontation.
The trial began two weeks ago. The jury began deliberations on Monday (May 19) and returned with three guilty verdicts after nearly 11 hours of deliberations. Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Chauvin, who had been free on bond, was taken into custody. Judge Peter A. Cahill is expected to sentence Chauvin in eight weeks. The combined maximum sentence for all three counts totals 75 years in prison, although a shorter sentence is likely under current sentencing guidelines.
Hill flew to Minneapolis Tuesday morning at the behest of Ben Crump, who “felt like” the verdict would come in sometime Tuesday, Hill said. Crump is the attorney representing Floyd’s family.
Crump also is founder of The Benjamin Crump Social Justice Institute (BCSJI), a nonprofit organization that fosters “a safeguard of the fundamental rights of everyone, regardless of race, ethnic origin, gender identity, possessions, or socioeconomic status,” according to the website.
Hill began his association with Crump during the attorney’s representation of Floyd’s family.
After the verdict had been read, there were cheers, tears and hugs, said Hill. But after the celebration, there was a peaceful protest calling for overall police reform.
“It was a good day for justice,” said Hill. “America finally acknowledged our existence. This verdict was monumental. Now, the door is open for true justice reform. The journey begins.”
Crump and Floyd’s family expressed satisfaction for the verdict, but pushed for police reform at a press conference.
“…America, let’s pause a moment to proclaim this historical moment,” said Crump. “…We want to make America an America for all Americans…Let’s frame this moment as one living up to the Declaration of Independence…America, this is the victory for those who champion humanity over inhumanity, justice over justice, morals over immorality…Let’s make sure this moment will be documented for our children yet unborn…”
Crump spoke with Hill later and had some words of encouragement for the young activist.
“Devante, don’t stop fighting,” Crump told Hill. “And don’t change the way you fight. Fight clean. Fight fair. And, fight patiently.”
Hill’s brand of activism has courted controversy in Memphis, including a July, 2016 closing of the Interstate 40 bridge Downtown.
Hill led a more aggressive faction of Black Lives Matter up onto the ramp, where protesters brought traffic to a standstill for hours.
The protest was resolved peacefully, thanks to the efforts of then-Interim Police Director Mike Rallings, who recently retired as police director.
Hill said he is not really a part of the organized Black Lives Matter local movement. His participation in protests and demonstrations of any kind are of his own accord. He is an independent activist.
“I was anxious as I waited with other protesters outside the courtroom Tuesday,” Hill said. “It was a good day, the end of one journey, but the start of a new journey to real police reform. This moment is different. The door is open now.”
Hill is pastor of One-Church Memphis, an “activist” church located in the Frayser community.
Hill did not say when he would return to Memphis.