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The jury verdict that former cop and unrepentant sociopath Derek Chauvin is guilty three times over on all possible charges – twice for murder, once for manslaughter – for killing George Floyd over the sickening nine minutes and 29 seconds of savagery we all saw brings a measure of solace and hope. Finally, a killer cop in America, one of too many, has been found to be a killer cop. Finally, a jury rejected all the racist buzzwords and smears – struggles with drugs, “resisting” arrest, bad health, no tail light, running or sleeping or looking suspicious or the perils of a “hostile crowd” in a “densely populated urban environment” – that they didn’t with Terence Crutcher, Botham Jean, Freddie Gray, Philando Castille, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Elijah McLain, Tamir Rice et al. “Justice For Them All,” read one righteous sign at Monday protests by thousands of Minnesota teenagers reluctantly taking on adult fights. This time – with that truth-telling video and even fellow officers breaking the blue line of silence – the lies didn’t work. “You were told (Floyd) died because his heart was too big,” said prosecutor Jerry Blackwell in closing arguments. “The truth (is) George Floyd is dead because Mr. Chauvin’s heart was too small.” Holding Floyd facedown on the pavement that day as he battled to breathe, added prosecutor Steve Schleicher, “did not require one ounce of courage. All that was required was a little compassion, and none was shown…This wasn’t policing. This was murder.” Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
Still, the verdict represents “an absolute minimum of justice” after all that’s come before, because one death, one case, one jury, one conviction does not systemic change make. With police killings ongoing – Daunte Wright was just gunned down a few miles away, one of 319 deaths by cop this year – justice was served to Derek Chauvin, but the need for police reform to “break the chain” of which Chauvin was just one toxic link remains urgent. “A criminal conviction for the most egregious and dramatic incident of violence is unlikely to change the systemic problems of US policing (whose) main tools are blunt force and criminalization,” argues Human Rights Watch. They note murder is one end of a spectrum that also sees police use excessive force, arbitrary detention, selective enforcement of minor violations and racial profiling against black and brown communities they seek only to control, not protect or serve. Chauvin is a first, heedful step: “Justice would be George Floyd still alive. Accountability is Derek Chauvin being found guilty for why George Floyd is not still alive.” Justice would also be Floyd growing old with his now-seven-year-old daughter Gianna – “My daddy changed the world” – and people of color living not in terror but with equal access to jobs, schools, health care, what Benjamin Crump called “the painfully earned” legacy of “trying to make America for all Americans.” After the verdict, Minneapolis erupted with reponses both tearful and jubilant, a nod to the long work ahead. “Black people: 1. White supremacy: 8,765,” wrote one. And, “Rest well, Mr. George Floyd.”
“Justice, justice shall you pursue.” – Deuteronomy 16:18-17:13, as Moses directs the Israelites to appoint officials who will govern justly.
First published in Common Dreams.