MINNEAPOLIS, Min. – A Central Florida man wanted to be in the front row of history, so he decided to fly to Minneapolis ahead of the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.
Thony Hilario made it hours before the jury delivered the verdict and was able to hear their final decision.
“It was emotional because you notice that all that work that went in the Summer of 2020, it had a fruit, it beared a fruit and something came out of it,” Hilario said.
The Mount Dora resident was just outside the courthouse in Minneapolis when former police officer, Derek Chauvin was found guilty of the murder of George Floyd.
Chauvin’s conviction comes after the video of Floyd’s death went viral, showing the law enforcement officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as he was handcuffed. Floyd died on May 25, 2020. Nearly a year later, Hilario said he was worried justice would not be served.
“This isn’t the first time where there has been such a very strong evidence towards a police officer that has committed a crime where they have gotten off,” he said. That’s why the guilty verdict had such an emotional reaction, according to Hilario.
[WATCH LIVE: Orange County community reacts to George Floyd’s verdict]
“We were just standing there showing our support and that’s when the speaker told us and that’s when the crowd went wild,” the 29-year-old said.
Hilario said he had already been thinking about flying out to Minneapolis since the start of the trial. The night before a verdict was reached, he bought his plane ticket.
Hilario said he felt compelled to continue to demonstrate his view after the death of Floyd, even using his voice during the protests in Orlando.
“I was one of the ones that marched throughout downtown that went to the police area,” he said.
However, it was the Capitol riots of January 6th that were a turning point for him.
“It really, really like struck a nerve for me. It made it very evident that there is a complete difference of treatment towards people of minority and that definitely pushed me more to...to ‘I need to do something. I need to stand up,” he said.
He said he is no activist-- just your average guy who chose to be part of the change instead of watching it from home.
“I grew up with a very conservative mindset but after the few years that I’ve seen in front of my eyes what’s been happening my perspective has changed, my eyes have been open more. I decided to educate myself more,” he said. “To anyone who watches this, educate yourself as much as you can. Show empathy. Try to understand the other side. And let other people know.”