By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Faith leaders and activists gathered Tuesday at Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles ahead of the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, the former Minneapolis Police Officer charged with killing George Floyd. Organizers said they wanted to be at a centralized location in the community in order to provide residents support and encouragement no matter the outcome of the highly publicized trial.

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The group listened and watched on their phones as jurors in the Minneapolis courtroom delivered a guilty verdict on all three counts Chauvin was charged with.

“When we heard guilty and then we heard guilty and then we heard guilty again, we just got excited because finally the process actually worked. It actually worked for us,” Pastor Charles Johnson, at Miracle Mile for Justice, told CBSLA’s Joy Benedict.

While that feeling echoed across much of the city, many activists and faith leaders say there is much more work to be done.

“I mean, I felt a sense of victory again, but I know that it’s only because of the uprisings last year all over the place. Like, I know that it didn’t come from a place of benevolence,” Keyanna Celina, a social justice activist, told CBSLA’s Laurie Perez. “I knew it came from the threat of what would happen again in this country if they didn’t.”

Others say the verdict is evidence that movements like Black Lives Matter, protests and marches are agents of change.

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“What it’s an affirmation of is that organizing works, that when millions of people around the globe stood up and said that Black lives matter, that that is bearing fruit. And that’s the reason that Derek Chauvin was charged and now convicted,” said Dr. Melina Abdullah, a BLM cofounder in LA. The verdict itself is not progress, Abdullah added, but that it’s all that work that led to that outcome that shows the country is moving forward.

Pastor Eddie Anderson, Clergy for Black Lives, said that this country has never thought of Black people as human. He said the verdict brought to mind Emmitt Till, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and other brutal killings of Black people lynched on trees.

An elder from the Greater Zion Church Family, Chidi Olunkwa, said the verdict gives him confidence that Black people are allowed to speak about something, give a voice to something and see something change. “I’m not fully immersed into the confidence yet because it’s only one,” Olunka added.

Amid all the opinions about how the verdict will affect the country moving forward, it is clear that the decision in this trial has reached people of all ages, like Windsor Square resident Gaylynn Baker, a senior citizen who cameras caught speaking to police while she was out walking her dog.

“I told them that I was thrilled with the verdict today and that it wasn’t any kind of judgment against the police. It was against racism and all of the things that have been going on so unfairly for so long,” Baker said.

One of the greatest achievements of the BLM movement, according to some local activists, has been exposing the history of systemic racism to Americans of all backgrounds.

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