As the verdict came down in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, the news rippled in the Rockies on Tuesday afternoon.
Late in the afternoon, Gov. Jared Polis spoke up.
“Less than a year ago, the world watched in horror as George Floyd’s life was taken from him," Polis said in a statement. "In the days and weeks following his tragic murder, millions of Americans took to the streets to make their voices heard, saying enough is enough. Today, we see a glimmer of hope, a glimpse of justice, but we know we are nowhere near the end of this road."
The governor said true justice would restore Floyd's life.
"Let us acknowledge this victory and use this inflection point to bend the arc of social equality toward lasting justice so this doesn’t happen again," Polis said. "My heart goes out to the family of George Floyd, who have been forced to relive this tragedy far too many times, and to the families of countless other Black Americans who have been forced to say goodbye too soon.”
Chauvin, the 45-year-old veteran Minnesota police officer, was found guilty on all counts of second- and third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter, in the death of George Floyd on May 25 last year.
Floyd, who was originally being detained because he allegedly used a counterfeit $20 bill at a grocery store, is one of scores of Black men killed by police nationwide. His death became the most prominent of symbols because of a viral video of Chauvin with his knee on the suspect's neck. Floyd cried out that he couldn't breathe and called out to his dead mother that he loved her just before he appeared unconscious.
U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, a Democratic from Aurora, issued the first reaction from Colorado's congressional delegation.
“I join the Floyd family and their loved ones in celebrating this verdict, but I know that no verdict can bring back their precious brother, father and friend," he stated. "Accountability is no substitution for his life and real justice would be George Floyd being alive today."
He named others who had died at the hands of police, including, Elijah McClain in Aurora in 2019.
“This pain is bigger than one trial in Minneapolis can heal," Crow continued. "We must tackle the systemic racism that is embedded in our criminal justice system, our government and every facet of our society head-on.”
“Let’s also be clear that this must be the first step of many in true accountability and change. The House of Representatives passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act as a much-needed and comprehensive first step to ensure justice and equality for all. The Senate must take this bill up — immediately.”
U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, Democrat from Denver, also weighed in.
"While today’s verdict is a much-needed win in our battle for justice, there is still so much more work that needs to be done to end the violence that too many Black Americans have experienced at the hands of our police," she stated. "Today’s decision should send a clear message to all those who swear to protect and serve our communities that no one in this country is above the law.
"My hope is that today’s verdict will be a turning point in our nation’s history and help bring us together to enact the changes that our country so desperately needs.”
U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter called Floyd's murder "a terrible, brutal tragedy and should never have happened" and his family deserved justice.
"We still have a lot of work to do in this country to address the inequality and injustice that exists," the Democrat from Arvada said in a statement. "I’m glad the U.S. House has taken a first step in passing legislation to reform police practices and hold bad actors accountable.”
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who was calling for calm in the city before the verdict was announced, expressed his feelings on the historic nature of the moment.
"George Floyd received justice today, our community received justice today and the people received justice today," Hancock said in a statement after the verdict was announced. "George Floyd’s death sparked a long overdue reckoning on race in our country. This trial, and this guilty verdict, may be just one step toward reconciliation, but it is a powerful moment for the cause of equal justice in our society. We have much work still to do and that march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge is still far from done, but this is certainly a victory for that mission."
Hancock called on faith and community leaders to help create safe spaces for Coloradans to share their thoughts and emotions.
"People need be heard and have a way to process this event, so let’s have those frank conversations, no matter how difficult they may be, and promote our collective healing,” Hancock stated.
Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said he respected the judicial process and hoped the verdict brings healing.
"Since the horrific killing of George Floyd, the Denver Police Department has listened and learned from our community and continues working to build relationships where we demonstrate how we value those we serve," he stated. "We remain committed to finding the best ways to ensure policing in Denver is safe and equitable for all. I believe we have made meaningful progress in the nearly 11 months since his death, but there is more work to be done. Working together as a community is essential to reaching those goals."
Former Denver mayor and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, now a U.S. senator, said in the aftermath of the verdict, "Black Americans deserve a world in which their lives aren’t threatened by the very people sworn to protect them. We must reform a broken system that continues to allow these tragedies to happen.”
One of his former challengers for the seat in last year's Democratic primary, Trish Zornio, now a news columnist for the Colorado Newsline website, tweeted, "Do not confuse a just verdict with justice — we’ve much more work to do."
Colorado's senior senator, Democrat Michael Bennet of Denver, found cold comfort in the decision.
"No jury’s decision can return George Floyd to the safety of his family’s arms," he said in a statement. "No single verdict can demolish the structural racism that still plagues our country. But today, the jury reached the right conclusion. Tomorrow, we have to continue the work to ensure that every American, no matter their race, can live in safety with equal protection under the law."
Normally, the nearby Civic Center park would be abuzz with imbibers celebrating 4/20, the unofficial holiday for marijuana enthusiasts.
The Colorado Capitol, as it did during violent protests last summer, braced to be the epicenter of the political response. A few buildings downtown have been boarded up for months, but the Capitol remained vulnerable. Legislators clashed last month over how to protect the historic building, including potentially a permanent fence or wall, after the Capitol sustained heavy damage last year. The cleanup and repairs were reported to have cost taxpayers more than $1 million.
As activists awaited a verdict Tuesday afternoon, however, the immediate area was calm aside from the regular pandemic-version of hustle and bustle in the downtown business district.
The state parking garage is the only building in the area with windows boarded up, though those boards have been in place for months.
Denver police were on standby for protests after the verdict, the department told reporters, without disclosing plans or strategies.
State Rep. Brianna Titone, D-Arvada, tweeted with a similar tone: "Grateful for #justice for #GeorgeFloyd, but there's still a lot of work to do to prevent this from happening again. Thank you to the jurors for your service."
State Sen. Julie Gonzales, D-Denver, described her thoughts to the verdict in visceral terms.
"I took a sharp breath, a sigh of relief as the #guilty verdict was read; while recognizing that precious breath itself was denied to George Floyd," she tweeted. "May he rest in power. May his family find comfort. May his death compel us to work relentlessly to bend systems towards justice."
House Speaker Alec Garnett, D-Denver, said he hoped Tuesday's decision provides some closure for Floyd's family, the Black community and the nation.
“This is the right verdict — the only viable outcome of such a tragic and heartless injustice," he stated. "Colorado has led the way on police accountability and integrity, and we still have work to do to ensure justice for every community in our state.”
Last year, Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, and leader of the Black caucus, led the effort to pass Senate Bill 217, a major police reform bill in the wake of the Floyd killing.
Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, the House majority leader, cited those Colorado reforms after the verdict.
“Today, as we breathe a collective sigh of relief after the guilty verdict, we recommit ourselves to continuing to advance the cause of justice," she said. "We know that we have a great deal of work left to do, and I’m committed to ensuring that Colorado continues to lead the way.”
The Boulder District Attorney's Office, led by Democrat Michael Dougherty, praised the prosecutors and the jury in a statement that also suggested looking beyond the verdicts.
"Over the past year, the people of this country — including prosecutors across Colorado — united in calling for justice for George Floyd. With today’s guilty verdicts, the man who murdered him is being held fully responsible. We commend the prosecution team for their hard work and unerring commitment to justice.
"We honor victims of crime by seeking justice without fear or favor and by holding fair, public trials. No one is above the law; we commend the jury for their service in reaching the right and just outcome. Today, the justice system worked.
"Since the murder of Mr. Floyd, there have been deeply felt expressions of the anguish and outrage. Our country still has a lot of work to do in addressing inequities and building trust with all community members. We must make real progress. To truly honor George Floyd requires that we do so. It is our hope that today’s verdict is a positive step in that direction."
Denver District Attorney Beth McCann said, "The murder of George Floyd affected our entire nation and his death galvanized many in Denver to take to the streets and demand changes to policing and an end to systemic injustices that are rooted in racism.
"Justice was served today, but there is still more work to do. My office recently released a study on race and justice and we are now working with the community and other stakeholders to ensure we are upholding our mission of seeking fair and equal justice for all.”