We could all hear the exhalation of breath around the world after the jury in Minneapolis, MN returned the verdicts convicting Derek Chauvin of the murder of George Floyd after only 10 hours. The city of Minneapolis was prepared for the possibility of ensuing violence with businesses boarded up and the national guard called in…anticipating yet another acquittal for yet another white man killing a Black man. Hope for another obvious case resulting in justice, yet moderate expectations of yet another police killing gone unpunished.
This time it was different. Video testimony taken by a brave 17 year old showed the last 9 minutes of George Floyd’s life as he pleaded for his life. The world watched a previously healthy man before alive and well in the grocery store just minutes before he died during the trial. This should have been a foregone conclusion, and yet our expectations were still low due to the long history of police murders of Black people that had gone without punishment. And yet the feeling that justice was finally being met out was only fleeting.
As the jury deliberated Derek Chauvin's verdict, only 10 miles away Daunte Wright, a 20 year old black man, was killed by police on a minor traffic stop. Perhaps if he were white and had killed 9 Black people, he would have been given a burger instead of being killed.
Shortly after the verdict, we learned that 16 year old Ma'Khia Bryant had been killed by the police. This news came one day after the Chauvin verdict was delivered. People in the Black community asked one another "Could she have been shot in the leg instead? Could a taser have been used? Would they have so easily and cleanly killed a 16 year old girl of another race?" The New York Times has reported that since the Derek Chauvin trial began, 64 people have been shot by police, with 60 fatalities (as of the date of their publication). Over half of the victims were black and brown people.
The end of the Derek Chauvin trial is not the end of an ongoing issue surrounding the deaths and terrorism of Black people in America through systems that are legally sanctioned and are not. We must work within our communities with our local leaders in every town to build coalitions that work to prevent needless deaths at the hands of police and are ready to respond on an immediate basis to any police killing of Black people, especially when we see multiple video footage of armed white men in standoffs with police that utilize different tactics when it comes to them. We still await the sentence and wonder "will he get a slap on the wrist?" "a break with shorter sentences?" Pundits are saying that it will likely be 12 years. Even if Chauvin received the maximum of 40 years, it still is not the traumatic sentence of death that George Floyd received.
We still await the results of what will happen with the prosecution of Daunte Wright’s murderer- Kim Potter- the 26 year police veteran who says that she mistook a Taser for a gun. One conviction for the cold blooded murder of a Black Man does not mean that we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief. This does not mean that the murder and brutality of Black people is over and that from now on out we will always see justice met out where it is due. This is only one case among many and our American society still has a lot of work to do from the highest levels of government to the smallest rural community in our struggle towards fairness and equality for all people."
“What I struggle with the most is knowing the police had George Floyd secured in cuffs. I watched the crowd of people beg with George for the police not to kill him. I saw a grown man cry I can’t breath and crying for his mother. At that moment I fully understood the history of the United State policing and how long our Judicial system has failed to treat us as human beings. This isn’t a win! George Floyd had won murdered Black Americans wouldn’t be on trial for being victims, the murderer would be on trial for their crime. We didn’t win anything; we started a movement that only just begun!” - Monica James, NBC Delegate