Editorials

Derek Chauvin Verdict: One Down, Thousands to Go

Build August 28 DC March: Justice for All Victims of Cop Brutality!


May 25, 2021—On the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s brutal death at the hands of Minneapolis police, all opponents of cop violence and racism can rejoice in seeing Floyd’s executioner locked-up behind bars. We can celebrate the prospect of a long sentence awaiting former police officer Derek Chauvin. His conviction by a Minneapolis jury on April 20 was a victory for the mass movement against police brutality and racism that Floyd’s homicide sparked across the United States and around the world.

George Floyd memorial at the site of his murder on May 25, 2020, by Minneapolis police. (Photo: Stephen Maturen / Getty Images)

The Chauvin verdict means one down. However, there are thousands of killer cops to go. That includes the three other Minneapolis cops complicit in Floyd’s death. In the large majority of cases, police departments—with the collusion of local, state, and federal authorities—get away with murder, over and over again.

Nine days before Chauvin’s conviction, cops gunned down 20-year-old Daunte Wright in cold blood in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, not far from where Floyd was killed. The very day the Chauvin verdict was announced, 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was killed in Columbus, Ohio. In Chicago, a cop shot 13-year-old Adam Toledo dead while his hands were up. Andre Brown, Jr. was killed by North Carolina police in his car and prosecutors have already exonerated the cops involved, while continuing to hold back video evidence of the shooting. Video has just emerged showing the brutal and fatal 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene that Louisiana state troopers have tried to cover up for two years.

“On every day that followed [the opening of the Chauvin trial],” the New York Times reported, “all the way through the close of testimony, another person was killed by the police somewhere in the United States.”

This is a moment to reflect on the lessons of George Floyd’s murder that shook the world one year ago, as we consider what remains to be done now.


EDITORIAL


In an exception to the rule, Minnesota state authorities and the U.S. federal government came down on Chauvin like a ton of bricks to secure his conviction. The Minneapolis police chief testified Chauvin had violated department policy by kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes even after the handcuffed man—held on the ground, face down, surrounded by three other cops—pleaded for his life; even after he became unresponsive; even after other cops suggested the restraint be lifted. The U.S. Justice Department brought civil rights charges against Chauvin and the other three cops, after his criminal conviction. It may be true that Chauvin violated written Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) procedures. But George Floyd’s murder was hardly the first time common cop practice trumped written procedures. The MPD had made Chauvin a “training officer,” which says more than any operating manual.

Local, state, and federal authorities were nervous about a potential social explosion a non-guilty verdict could have sparked. Millions who watched the nine-and-a-half-minute video that documented Floyd’s murder had clamored for prosecution and jail time for the cops responsible. Politicians and top police officials decided to throw one of their men under the bus in an attempt to salvage the image of law enforcement. The idea was to show a “bad apple” does not represent the police and that prosecutors and courts in the “justice system” will supposedly punish cops who break the rules. The goal is to divert mass protest against cop brutality from the streets and towards reliance on the alleged goodwill of liberal reformers, by electing them, keeping them in office, or helping them pass legislation that will allegedly “reform” the police. 

Toshira Garraway, of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence in Minnesota, and Brian Taylor of the Cincinnati Anti-Police Brutality Coalition, both recently pointed to the hypocrisy of the appearance at Daunte Wright’s funeral, days after the Chauvin verdict, of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar. The Minnesota Democrat shed crocodile tears there over the murder of the young African American. “Klobuchar was Hennepin County prosecutor from 1999 until 2007,” Taylor explained. “During her tenure, there were 122 well-documented cases of police misconduct, 29 of which resulted in civilian deaths. Yet, Klobuchar refused to prosecute a single one.” Other top Democrats in that state—who also “didn’t deserve to be around that boy’s casket,” as Garraway aptly put it—offered similar lip service with the same aims.

This cynical masquerade does not diminish the importance of what millions accomplished in mobilizing to demand Chauvin’s conviction. Some have claimed Chauvin did not get a fair trial. His trial was as fair as can be expected in this society of class injustice. He enjoyed the presumption of innocence until found guilty. He was granted bail following his arrest, a right commonly denied many, if not most accused of murder or even lesser crimes. A judge allowed Chauvin to move out of Minnesota to “protect his safety” while awaiting trial. He was found guilty in a unanimous verdict by a jury of his peers, which included members of different skin colors. That jury heard—and saw—damning evidence, starting with the video and including analysis of the facts by medical experts pinpointing the exact moment of Floyd’s last breath, minutes before Chauvin lifted his knee from George’s neck. Given the powerful evidence, the defense could not establish “reasonable doubt” in the eyes of a single juror, which is all that was required to evade conviction.

Now is the time to build on what millions started last year when we took to the streets, and was deepened by Chauvin’s conviction. Now is the time to support and join hundreds of families who have lost loved ones to police violence and have never stopped fighting for justice for ALL victims of this scourge of cop brutality. Across the United States, these families and their supporters are demanding that the police who killed their loved ones be prosecuted and jailed. They are demanding that all past cases of police brutality where justice has been denied be reopened. Dozens of these families and their supporters organized protests last month. Impacted families are leading similar actions today, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder and to point to the many, many similar cases where justice has yet to be served.

As the events of the past year have shown, the only effective way to affect the behavior of the police—whose job is to protect and serve the interests of the capitalist class—is mass action to prosecute and put behind bars as many guilty cops as possible.

More than 250 members of impacted families have signed a call initiated by Mass Action Against Police Brutality and other organizations for a national march and rally at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., on August 28, the 58th anniversary of the historic civil rights march, to demand justice for all victims of police brutality. Let’s join them!

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