On Apr. 20, a Minneapolis jury came back with three guilty verdicts for disgraced police officer Derek Chauvin who killed George Floyd last summer by kneeling on his neck. He was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. This group of convictions could send him to jail for the rest of his life. Following this verdict, millions took to the internet and their platforms to voice their opinions on this decision. Some called it justice, some called it accountability and others called it an attack on the police of America and a miscarriage of justice.
The most prominent message from the black community was that though this was not justice, this is accountability. Some may question this as they assume that the outcome of this trial, with Chauvin being convicted, would constitute a just and fair system and so it means that justice was served. However, this was best explained by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison who said, “I would not call today’s verdict justice, however, because justice implies true restoration. But it is accountability, which is the first step towards justice.” True justice would be George Floyd’s life being restored and since this is not possible, justice is not achieved. However, as Attorney General Ellison stated, it is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, the news of Chauvin’s verdict came around the same time as the police killing of Daunte Wright, yet another unarmed black man fatally shot due to a supposed mistake by the arresting officer who thought she was pulling a taser instead of her gun. This situation has caused deserved outrage as the public questions how a seasoned officer who also helps train other officers in the jurisdiction can make such a mistake and why someone who would make that mistake was so high in the ranks.
Others, however, have taken this verdict differently. Many, while not explicitly stating that they disagree with the verdict, made statements that the jury did their job. This response implies dissatisfaction without outright saying it, especially since those who had this reaction are generally against police reform and have denied the presence of race issues in both policing and society. Some expressed begrudging agreement, like Rep. Joni Ernst who said, “I guess I’m in agreement, so…” Given the massive amount of evidence pointing towards Chauvin’s guilt, it was hard for many to explicitly dispute the verdict, though many tried, expressing interest in an appeal based on an unfair trial. Most, however, deferred to the jury and the justice system so they were not forced to take sides, in hopes of flying under the radar of public scrutiny.
Overall, while this verdict was a relief for many, it just goes to highlight the need to continue to do the work to either fix a broken system or dismantle it and start from the ground up so that justice can prevail in the future. The current system does not protect black individuals and it is not built to do so. George Floyd was one of too many who deserves to be alive today but instead, lost their lives at the hands of a broken system. Hopefully, there is change on the horizon; for now, the work must continue.