On April 20th a Minneapolis jury returned its verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the cop who murdered George Floyd by kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. The jurors found him guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Despite the sense of relief millions of people across the country felt, this is not a vindication of this system of so-called justice. The verdict was the result of the actions of the tens of millions of people who demonstrated and voiced their outrage against this racist murder. Their anger was carried into the courtroom through this jury of twelve people.
That there could have even been a question about this cop’s guilt – speaks loudly. How many times were videos of Floyd’s murder viewed? How many times did the jury and those who watched the trial on television see the videos and listen to the horrific details of this brutal murder? There was no question!
The trial was a response to people’s anger. The county prosecutor assembled the usual weak case against a killer cop and then Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison quickly took over. They could not afford to have the “catch and release” trial that cops usually get. There was too much at stake.
We can’t confuse what happened in this courtroom with justice. It isn’t! For George Floyd’s family and millions of other people, especially Black people, Chauvin’s conviction stands as a clear statement that George Floyd is a human being. And Black lives do matter. But the reality of this country does not reflect this.
Since Floyd’s death, in May of 2020, an average of three Americans have been killed by the police every day! And these murders by the police take place largely in poor neighborhoods, and the victims are disproportionately people of color and especially African Americans. While the Chauvin trial was taking place, Daunte Wright, a 20 year old Black man was shot and killed by a cop in Brooklyn City, Minnesota, 12 miles from the Chauvin trial. Adam Toledo, a 13 year old Latino boy in Chicago, was shot to death by a cop, with his empty hands in the air. Minutes before the verdict in the Chauvin trial, Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old Black woman, was shot four times by a cop who was part of a team of cops who were called in to deal with a disturbance.
It has been the same year after year. Last year 1,127 people were killed by cops, and more than 1,000 have been killed each year since 2013. Nearly a quarter of those killed were Black, even though they make up 13% of the population and are more likely than whites to be unarmed when they were killed.
Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd was part of this pattern of police terror. From its origins, as a force in the south to capture runaway slaves, and to discipline and brutalize the wage slaves working in the northern factories, the U.S. police force has served and protected the interests of those with wealth and power, defending their property and their system of greed. The police are the enforcers of a class order that serves the rich against the rest of us. And that violence has been primarily directed at the poorest members of society – and disproportionately against Black people and other people of color.
This verdict doesn’t represent justice. Convicting a monster like Chauvin won’t change the role of the police. Small changes may occur and some police departments will focus on working with social workers and they may even discipline or fire cops who carry out their own version of “street justice.”
It won’t be until we have a society where each person is regarded as a full and equal human being that this violence will end. And for that to happen we need a totally different social order, one where there is no class of owners and rulers; where we all work and and all have a role in making decisions in the running of society – a socialist society.