Why the Chauvin Verdict Is One Step in a Larger Fight for Justice
On Tuesday, April 20th, Derek Chauvin was convicted for the death of George Floyd. After 10 hours of deliberation over two days, the jury found the former Minneapolis police officer guilty of unintentional second degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
Chauvin’s conviction came nearly a year after witnesses captured a video of him kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. Floyd’s death sparked waves of protests both across the United States and around the world, creating a national reckoning with police violence and systemic racism.
For many, this trial was a symbolic representation of how the United States could begin to reform policing practices. After the verdict was announced, the Floyd family and their attorneys reflected upon the historical implications this trial could have in achieving justice throughout the United States.
“Let’s pause for a moment to proclaim this historical moment, not just for the legacy of George Floyd, but for the legacy of America,” said Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney who represents the family, “The legacy of trying to make America for all Americans so that George Floyd’s victory and America’s quest for equal justice under the law will be intertwined.”
Others remain less optimistic. Floyd’s death was just one among many others. On April 11th, the Sunday before final testimonies began in Chauvin’s trial, 20-year-old Daunte Wright was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer, sparking protests. Less than thirty minutes before the guilty verdict was read, Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year old Black girl, was fatally shot by an officer in Columbus, Ohio.
Since 2015, police officers have fatally fired at nearly 1,000 people annually. Black Americans are 2.5 times as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed. This situation is far too familiar for mothers like Georgia Ferrell, whose son Jonathon Ferrell was killed by a police officer on September 14th, 2013.
“Chauvin was found guilty,” she said in an article with the Washington Post, “But that won’t bring back George Floyd, my son or any of our Black children. I don’t feel peace. My heart and soul are happy for Floyd’s family, but there are too many of us out here who don’t have justice. We have to continue to work to change the laws.”
According to NPR, some officers “have been involved in two—sometimes three or more—shootings, often deadly and without consequences.” Precedents, like qualified immunity, have protected law enforcement officials from facing legal repercussions. As activists look beyond this trial, they hope to begin reforming these accountability systems.
“It’s up to all of us to build on this moment,” wrote Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd. “We must end the qualified immunity that too often shields law enforcement officers from responsibility, require police to maintain body-camera and dash-cam videos, and ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants. Now, it’s time for the U.S. Senate to do its part and pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, and begin the work of transforming policing in the United States.”
Philonise Floyd shares the same goals as many activists: to tackle the systemic issues that plague the United States’s policing system. Whether these goals will be achieved, however, remains a question.