HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Capitol steps remained empty hours after the guilty verdict of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, in stark contrast to the thousands of protesters who filled the steps last summer after the death of George Floyd.
“America got the opportunity to see what it is to be Black in America on TV one time. I don’t know if many of them are going to get it, but a lot of us have seen it,” said Kevin Maxson, founder of Voices 4 the Voiceless and organizer of several Black Lives Matter protests in Harrisburg last year. “It’s like going that roller coaster the first time, that feeling. We’ve seen it and we understood it and we understand it every day we walk out of our homes.”
Many Harrisburg residents agreed with the guilty verdict on three charges.
“My kids are Black. If I don’t want that done to my kids I’m not going to want it done to another Black person,” said Eunice Cole of Harrisburg.
“I can understand in the heat of the moment, but it should not happen. You have to be able to think and react, not just go full animalistic,” said a Harrisburg resident who wished to be identified only by his first name, Rico. “It’s one of those things that never should have happened, but it continues.”
“I don’t look at it being racist thing or whatnot, it’s just the fact that it was damaging. It was like you meant to hurt somebody,” said Harrisburg resident Leman Harris.
Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse also responded to the verdict on Twitter. He quoted Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Whether the verdict will bring closure for the thousands who were hurt and angry enough to protest in Harrisburg in 2020 remains to be seen, Maxson said. For him, the guilty verdict brings some consolation. But true justice would be for police violence to cease happening.
“This doesn’t make me feel any safer in America than I did the day before,” Maxson said. “So I don’t think it’s a moment for celebration. I think it’s more of a moment for reflection. Where do we go from here?”
Voices 4 the Voiceless will hold a candlelight vigil at the Capitol on Saturday starting at 7 p.m.