The beautiful front-page photo of a couple hugging in George Floyd Square after the Derek Chauvin verdict almost didn’t happen on Wednesday
Harrison Hill, a photojournalist, was among the media gathered in front of the Floyd mural outside the Cup Foods store in Minneapolis, where Floyd reportedly attempted to use a counterfeit $20 note. The series of events that led to the Black man’s murder by a white police officer began with a clerk who called the cops.
People at the mural were weeping and cheering after the verdict on Tuesday. However, the scene was crowded, with photographers vying for the best spot.
Harrison had two cameras with him, one for video and the other for stills.
Hill said, “I had this huge video camera on a monopod and it was bouncing on my chest when I was shooting and I wasn’t getting any good shots.” “So I’m thinking, “Well, I’ll try something else.” So I went for a walk around the neighborhood and came across this opportunity. And it was only when I raised my camera to my eye that I noticed Cup Foods in the back on the right. The mural was then on the left. And I thought to myself, “Well, there’s a foreground and a background.” We’ve got everything.”
“Something” was one of the day’s iconic photographs, capturing both the crowd’s passion and the moment’s past.
Photojournalism at its finest.
Hill’s editors had requested that all photojournalists immediately submit two or three photographs, so he dashed to his car to file what he had. He then returned to work. He didn’t know what he’d captured until he received a proof of the front page from his publisher.
“When I saw that, I understood how much bigger this was than me.” “That really helped me understand the significance of that day and, more importantly, that moment,” he said.
“It’s as if I was placed in that situation to catch that moment.”
The guy in Hill’s picture was Nic Hernandez.
“He was like all the other people in the square who were surprised at the time,” Hill said. “No one could articulate how they felt because they were in such disbelief at the moment.” Everyone was nervous, but after the verdict was announced and people knew that he (Chauvin) had been convicted, they all felt a massive weight lift off their shoulders.
“The scene was just packed with love after that.”
N’dea Yancey is a reporter. As Bragg learned of the verdict, she was in her Minneapolis hotel room. She hurried to the square with Hill, grabbing her belongings
At first, it was just the media that showed up, but as time went by, more people began to show up.
Some people were glued to their screens, waiting for the verdict. Yancey-Bragg leaned in next to a Jeep Wrangler with the radio on to listen. She said, “I heard guilty, guilty, guilty.” “And then the fans erupt in applause, hugs, and tears.” People were also flinging cash into the air. “It was insane.”
Almost no one she spoke with predicted a guilty verdict, according to Yancey-Bragg. She didn’t know either.
“As a woman of color, I’ve seen a slew of high-profile police shootings go unpunished, let alone charged. People of color in this town have all said the same thing: they don’t want convictions. I only spoke with two people who said they believed he was guilty. So it wasn’t even an option.”
The outcome elicited a barrage of emotions.
“I think everybody felt that justice was done,” she said, “but I think a lot of people were experiencing disbelief, joy, and the sense that our lives mattered.”
During the courtroom, the room outside the Hennepin County Government Center was normally filled with the steady click of cameras. It was now almost quiet.
Hackney had been reporting on the culture around George Floyd Square and the justice they were seeking for a month in Minneapolis.
“I had no idea how much it was impacting me,” Hackney said. “It was almost as though the time had arrived, the moment of reality had arrived.”
Cars clogged side streets as people flocked to the courthouse. They wanted to be there at the time. People stared at their phones and listened to radios, just as they did in the square. The first verdict, guilty, was read first, followed by the second and third.
“Guilty on all three counts,” someone said over a megaphone.
“They were so relieved,” Hackney said, “and you could just feel all of their misery and all they’d been through in the last year.” “It was extremely effective. Strangers hugged strangers, and strangers hugged strangers.”
Hackney’s editor called to get more information for his reaction column. Our print deadline was 45 minutes away. But because they couldn’t hear each other, Hackney started texting what she saw.
“There’s this young white guy standing next to me all by himself sobbing,” she said. “And people were patting him on the back and almost hugging him as they walked by.”
“And the crowd roared as it came in guilty, guilty, guilty,” he said. On the faces of those around him, he could see relief: “Photographers were seen sobbing. I saw elderly Black men weeping. I saw young people weeping, as if everyone was upset. Then the party started.”
When Henderson was 14, his father told him about Emmett Till, who was also 14 when he was murdered in Mississippi in 1955, Henderson realized he wanted to be a visual journalist. An all-white jury convicted two white men who faced charges. The Black teen was beaten, wounded, and dumped in a river after being strung up with barbed wire. Till’s mother insisted on an open casket at the funeral so that the world could see what had happened to her son. A portrait of her staring at her son’s mutilated body inspired a generation of civil rights activists.
Many have drawn parallels between the photographs of Floyd’s and Till’s murders in terms of shocking the world and inspiring cultural changes.
“I’m really not sure what it all entails,” Henderson expressed his confusion. “I’m going to need some time to think.” He said he’s also suffering from “compassion exhaustion,” as he’s come to understand it.
“I’m feeling like I’m drowning in empathy.” You feel as though you can’t take all of the emotion, significance, and responsibility of the situation. But that’s what we’re qualified to do as photographers.”
Henderson is aware that the community’s work, as well as his own, continues.
“The battle for justice is still going on,” he said. “There is still a struggle for empathy and compassion, as well as healing, that needs to happen in our communities.” The consequences will be felt for centuries.
“Just like the Emmett Till story has stayed with me for the past 20 years, people will remember this story for the rest of their lives.”