A landmark verdict was reached today in the Derek Chauvin trial. The jury has found Chauvin guilty on all counts, including second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Following the verdict, bail was revoked and people across the United States watched as Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was escorted away in handcuffs.
Arriving almost a year after the murder of George Floyd, the verdict is being lauded by some as justice for Floyd and his loved ones. While we will have to wait eight weeks for Chauvin’s sentencing, the verdict is a small victory in the fight against police brutality.
GUILTY! Painfully earned justice has finally arrived for George Floyd’s family. This verdict is a turning point in history and sends a clear message on the need for accountability of law enforcement. Justice for Black America is justice for all of America!
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) April 20, 2021
Police officers are rarely prosecuted in the U.S. Convicting police officers of a crime like murder is even rarer. Since 2005, courts of law have convicted only 35 officers of a crime related to an on-duty fatality. Chauvin’s verdict could signal a turning of the tide. Officers let off the hook thanks to social and legal protections, such as the blue wall of silence and qualified immunity, will now face the consequences of their actions.
Already, we’ve seen this accountability take shape in Chauvin’s trial. Specifically, 45 witnesses testified, including the Minneapolis police chief. Witnesses also included law enforcement officers who broke with precedent and denounced Chauvin’s use of force.
“It is not part of our training, and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values,” the police chief said of Chauvin’s actions during the trial.
Historically, police officers have actively protected each other, which has become known as the blue wall of silence. This has made it more difficult to investigate those who have broken the law. The testimonies given in Chauvin’s trial could dawn an era in which stricter accountability of police forces isn’t wishful thinking, but a requirement upheld by all who don the badge.
Following the verdict, many activists and advocates doubled down on ending qualified immunity. Qualified immunity protects police officers from lawsuits that allege the official violated a plaintiff’s rights. Typically, qualified immunity is what makes suing police officers nearly impossible. Colorado and New Mexico are a few states that recently banned qualified immunity as a way to implement police reform.
Justice has prevailed in the case against #GeorgeFloyds killer #DerekChauvin, but the work is not done! We must keep fighting to end qualified immunity, and we must get #PoliceReformNOW. pic.twitter.com/tpiKEampth
— NAACP (@NAACP) April 20, 2021
Chauvin faces up to 40 years of jail time. The trial of Chauvin’s peers—Thomas Lane, Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao—will start on August 23.
While this is a day of justice for many, the landmark ruling does not conclude a long history of systemic racism. Nor does it signal an end to police violence against Black and brown people.
Since the testimony of Chauvin’s trial began on March 29, at least 64 people—half of which were Black or Latino people—have died at the hands of law enforcement nationwide, including Daunte Wright. And, as the country awaited the verdict on Tuesday afternoon, a 15-year-old girl was shot and killed by police in Columbus, Ohio. Ma’Khia Bryant joins Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, and more on a too-long list of police violence victims.
Paula Bryant tells me her 16 year-old daughter Ma’Khia Bryant was an honor roll student and a sweet child. Ma’Khia was shot and killed by a @ColumbusPolice on Legion Lane at 4:30p today. pic.twitter.com/0FfbQVEgSD
— Lacey Crisp (@LaceyCrisp) April 21, 2021
At a press conference following the trial, George Floyd’s family cited these recent victims as reasons why they will continue to protest.
“We have to protest because it seems like this is a never-ending cycle,” said Philonise Floyd, Floyd’s brother, according to The Wall Street Journal. “I’m going to put up a fight every day, because I’m not just fighting for George anymore, I’m fighting for everybody around this world.”
President Biden and Vice President Harris called the Floyd family after the verdict was announced, with POTUS stating, “Nothing is going to make it all better, but at least now there is some justice.”
President Biden and VP Harris call the Floyd family after the GUILTY verdict! Thank you @POTUS & @VP for your support! We hope that we can count on you for the police reform we NEED in America! ✊🏾 pic.twitter.com/cg4V2D5tlI
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) April 20, 2021
While justice has been served, there is still much work to be done, especially by the white community. According to a tweet from Alex Moe of NBC News, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi turned Floyd into a martyr, stating, “Thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice.” Comments like Pelosi’s make it sound like George Floyd had a choice in being murdered when that couldn’t be further from the truth. This minimizes the systemic problems in the U.S., namely how white supremacy and racism have been upheld by law enforcement for hundreds of years, resulting in the deaths of countless Black and brown people.
How many more Black and brown people have to die at the hands of the police before real change occurs? This problem isn’t new. In fact, it’s almost 200 years old. What’s new is holding the police accountable for the violence they enact on communities of color. But will the same accountability occur for the latest 65 victims of police violence?
Maybe it’s time to seriously consider what abolishing our current policing system looks like, and build community care networks in its stead. Because again I ask, how many more Black and brown people have to die at the hands of the police?