On Tuesday, a jury unanimously found Derek Chauvin guilty of a range of charges in the murder of George Floyd. However, the verdict is a drop in the sea of the broader issue of police brutality and violence, and many argue that now is not the time to sit back in relief but to stand up and continue the fight.
Lisa Robinson of Washington reacts as the guilty verdict is announced in in Minneapolis.
“Guilty!” the shout rings across George Floyd Square in Minneapolis. A beat of silence and then cheers erupt.
Just under a year after the murder of George Floyd that sparked waves of protest and outrage across the world, Derek Chauvin was convicted of three charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. A large sign has been tallying the days since Floyd’s murder at the gas station across the road. As the verdict is read, an individual removes the count from beneath the title that reads “Justice for George Floyd” and puts up the words “justice served?”.
25 minutes earlier and roughly 800 miles away in Columbus, Ohio, 16-year-old Ma’khia Bryant was on the phone to police about attackers at her home. Ma’khia reported that a group of older females were attacking and attempting to stab her and required police assistance. Police showed up at the scene shortly after that, and within seconds of arriving, an officer shot Ma’khia four times in the chest. Ma’khia was taken to hospital, where she was unfortunately pronounced dead. The news-breaking mere hours after Chauvin’s verdict, the death of Ma’khia Bryant serves to highlight just how deeply penetrating police violence against black and brown communities really is and how for communities of colour, small victories are often short-lived.
During the month-long process of Derek Chauvin’s trial, several cases of police brutality caught the world’s attention, including the deaths of 20-year-old Duante Wright and 13-year-old Adam Toledo. Both cases saw the victims shot dead, with Wright shot at close range by an officer claiming to have mistakenly reached for their gun instead of their taser. Toledo’s death in Chicago involved him complying with the police in dropping his weapon and raising his hands, only to be shot by the officer, who had previously claimed Toledo pointed the gun at him in an armed confrontation. The cases of Wright, Toledo and Bryant, and countless others outside the national spotlight illuminate just how deeply entrenched systemic racism and police violence are against people of colour. The Washington Post’s police shooting database reports grim statistics, with reports of 984 people being shot and killed by police in the last year alone. The database also shows the disproportionate rate at which communities of colour have fatal encounters with police. Statistics show that while half of all people killed by police are white, black and Hispanic people are disproportionately targeted. The rate at which black Americans are shot being over twice as high as that of white people. Accounting for the population size, white people are shot at a rate of 15 per million, whereas the rate is 27 per million for Hispanic people and 36 per million for black Americans.
The conviction of Derek Chauvin serves as a potential turning point in the fight for equal rights. For the first time in Minnesota, a white police officer has been convicted for the death of a black man. It is a somewhat rewarding statistic in that it brings hope for change but is also incredibly shattering. Despite a slew of killings and cases of police violence, not once in Minnesota’s 200-year history has a verdict like this. Unfortunately, this phenomenon echoes true across the country, with minimal numbers of law enforcement being held accountable for any harm or casualties they inflict.