Gabrielle Maginn, Heather Chang, Navin Ramalingam, and the JLI Editorial Board
Yesterday, twelve jurors found Derek Chauvin, a White former Minneapolis police officer, guilty on all counts—third-degree murder, second-degree unintentional murder, and second-degree manslaughter—for killing George Perry Floyd, Jr., on May 25, 2020. This was an extraordinary case, bolstered by the bravery of the witnesses who stopped and confronted the police officers on the scene and testified at trial, and brought to light by a nine-minute video recording viewed around the world. The courage of these witnesses, one of whom is a 9-year-old child, and the fact that the eyes of the world were on Minneapolis every step of the way, allowed for the conviction of Chauvin, the first White police officer to be convicted in the death of a Black civilian in Minnesota.
While we hope this verdict brings some measure of peace to George Floyd’s family and friends, we recognize that this conviction represents not justice, but a small step towards accountability for his murder. That this accountability has not come for many other Black men killed by police in the Twin Cities, including Jamar Clark, Philando Castile, Isak Aden, Dolal Idd, and many more, only highlights the work we must still do.
This verdict is merely the first step towards real justice for George Floyd, which can only be achieved by transforming the racist institutions that enabled his murder. Even as we may feel a sense of relief that another White police officer was not acquitted in the murder of a Black man, George Floyd should still be alive today. The structural racism that has been carefully built over centuries of oppression and exploitation of Black and Indigenous Americans cannot be undone by one just verdict. The killing of Daunte Wright, a twenty-year old Black father, by a White Brooklyn Center police officer during the course of the Chauvin trial illustrates what Black Minnesotans already know—we still have a long way to go as a city, state, and country before we live in communities that are truly safe for all people.
Many people and organizations in the community have been fighting for change long before May 25, 2020. It is only because of their efforts, and the tireless activism that we saw in our streets this summer, that this case even went before a jury, and that the conversation about policing in Minneapolis and nationwide shifted so radically. We join many others, including members of our Minnesota Law community, in continuing to call and organize for change to public safety in Minneapolis, and to the criminal justice system as a whole. We request that you support organizations working for this transformation like Reclaim the Block, MPD 150, Black Visions, Take Action MN, and Minnesota Youth Collective. We also encourage your support of groups committed to honoring the lives of victims of police violence, such as the Philando Castile Peace Garden and the George Floyd Memorial Foundation.
There will continue to be those who stand in the way of justice, and it’s our responsibility to overcome them.