Community members gather in East Oakland to celebrate and reflect on the Chauvin verdict

Law enforcement agencies were prepared for large gatherings and possible protests in the aftermath of the Derek Chauvin verdict Tuesday afternoon, but they didn't materialize.

What did happen was members of the Black community came together in East Oakland to talk about the verdict.

The mood was one of cautious optimism.

Many say the all guilty verdict is but one step in a long history of injustice. 

At East Oakland's Liberation Park, many said in this moment they needed to come together to reflect on the conviction of the former Minnesota police officer for the killing of George Floyd.

"Whatever the verdict was, we were prepared to be a place where people could talk, express themselves, cry," says Nehandra Imara, event organizer with the Black Cultural Zone.

"You see in their eyes the same thing they see in your eyes. You're seeing someone who feels and fears the same thing," says Petra Brady with the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce.  

There was a wide range of emotions. 

"This morning, I had an anxiety pit in my stomach because it could have gone either way," says Imara, "so when the verdict did come out, I was crying tears of joy."

But many say the long journey to justice for Black people killed by law enforcement has not reached its destination.

"The way this country has been, we know it's just a matter of time before the next incident will happen," says Reggie Borders, a small business owner from Pittsburg who attended this gathering. 

People pointed to the recent killings of Daunte Wright and other Black and Latino males by police.

They say what made the difference in this trial was the massive demonstrations last June immediately following the death of George Floyd. 

"It wasn't just Black and brown people protesting in the streets. This time, it was everybody," says Borders.  

One woman tells me when she heard the jury had reached a verdict in the Chauvin trial, she immediately called her family, concerned for their safety in the face of possible civil unrest.

"You get afraid. I started calling my two sons. I started calling my brother. Are you home? You need to go home," says Brady.

Single father Jalen Leathers of Oakland says the verdict gives him hope, "As a Black young man, it's very uplifting. It's very exciting. We know the system can actually do right by us." 

Many folks won't go as far as to say this verdict was a victory, but that this is progress.