Madison community leaders react to Chauvin verdict

MADISON, Wis. — Applause briefly echoed in a room near the Capitol Square around 4 p.m. Tuesday.  It came from a small group of Madison’s prominent community leaders, gathering to watch the Derek Chauvin trial verdict together.

Guilty verdicts on all three counts relieved many of them.

“I cried,” Boys and Girls Clubs CEO Michael Johnson said. “I couldn’t even sit there and watch the whole thing.  You just don’t think that when you see these incidents happen time and time again, sometimes you question whether or not our judicial system would do the right thing and today they did.”

Johnson asked Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes to join the group for the verdict.  Barnes accepted the invitation.

“I was a little disappointed, and I’ll tell you why, because we were all waiting with bated breath for a decision that should not have been a surprise,” Barnes said.  “I think that when we get to a point where justice is so apparent to everyone that we’re not surprised, we’re showing real progress.”

Barnes and other city leaders held a press conference just a day earlier.  During that gathering, he stressed the need to protect protesters’ First Amendment rights, the city unsure at that point of when a verdict would come and what it might be.

Barnes admitted he spent Monday night thinking about a statement he made regarding how the Chauvin trial and what happened to George Floyd impacted him.

“What I should have said is, ‘As a Black man I understand it, as a police officer I acknowledge it, but as a police leader I apologize for it,’” Barnes said.  “Because policing is global and I have to look within myself and my leadership and I have to be held accountable for the things that I say and the culture I set forth in my police department.”

Small crowds gathered around the state Capitol after the verdict, but reactions appeared positive and there was no initial sign of unrest.

“I feel absolutely vindicated,” said Darryl Carter, a man from California at the Capitol Tuesday evening. “I think for once we’ve seen the correct use of the judicial system.”

Renee Moe with United Way of Dane County told News 3 Now the evening “just got a lot easier” for everyone.

“Thank goodness Minneapolis did the right thing. This is a new day,” Moe said. “It means that people are being heard, it means that we understand that there are disproportionate effects for communities of color and it means that all of us can now see with our eyes unveiled the work that needs to get done and we can do that together,” Moe said.

Madison police will continue to patrol the downtown area overnight.  Officers were spotted on foot, in cruisers, and on horseback.  Chief Barnes said the verdict won’t change how MPD handles any gatherings in the coming days, but expects it to change many things in the years to come.

“I am relieved that this part is over, but it’s not over, right?  This is just one step towards where I think we need to go,” Barnes said.