Tuesday, April 20, 2021

“Let This Be a Turning Point”

Earlier this evening I joined with a number of my south Minneapolis neighbors to walk with lighted candles through our neighborhood.

We did this so as to honor the memory of George Floyd (right) and commit to the ongoing work of racial justice in the wake of the guilty verdict today in the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former police officer who had been charged with Floyd’s murder last year. Sentencing is expected in about eight weeks.

Floyd’s murder took place last May not far from our neighborhood, parts of which were destroyed and damaged in the social unrest that followed.

Following are a selection of responses to today's verdict. Some of these responses are from friends here in Minneapolis, others are from nationally-known figures. All convey the hope and need for this verdict to be, in the words of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), “a turning point” in the ongoing work of creating a society that truly reflects the belief that “all are created equal.”


Today a jury in Minneapolis, Minnesota, convicted former police officer Derek Chauvin on all counts in the death of George Floyd. On May 25, 2020, Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds after arresting him for allegedly trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. The jury found Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. He faces up to 75 years in prison, and will be sentenced in two months.

As we heard this verdict today, it was striking how many Americans breathed a sigh of relief. It stands out to me that, although a girl passing by, Darnella Frazier, had the presence of mind to record a video of the entire encounter on her cell phone so we could all see what happened entirely too clearly, we were not certain of the outcome.

. . . If Ms. Frazier had not captured the video, would Chauvin be in prison right now? Between 2013 and 2019, only 1% of killings by police have resulted in criminal charges.

How many of those deaths are like that of Mr. Floyd?

Here’s my question for white folx: what would you have done had Derek Chauvin been acquitted?

Whatever your ideas were, please do them anyway.

Rev. Tara Parrish
April 20, 2021

Despite today’s guilty verdict, true justice for George Floyd and the other Black lives snuffed out by police has yet to be done. . . . Derek Chauvin will now serve a penalty for acts deemed exceptional. But his behavior was not exceptional, and treating George Floyd’s murder as a consequence of extraordinary acts neither protects Black people nor captures the unreformable depravity of our system of policing. His murder is the predictable outcome of policing’s origin in slave patrols and the ongoing, constant threat to Black people of arrest, incarceration, violence, and death.

The jury’s verdict delivers accountability for Derek Chauvin, but not justice for George Floyd. Real justice for him and too many others can only happen when we build a nation that fundamentally respects the human dignity of every person. The trauma and tragedy of George Floyd’s murder must never leave us. It was a manifestation of a system that callously devalues the lives of Black people. Our struggle now is about justice – not justice on paper, but real justice in which all Americans live their lives free of oppression. We must boldly root out the cancer of systemic racism and police violence against people of color.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
April 20, 2021

Artwork: Nikkolas Smith

Of course, true justice for George Floyd would require him to still be alive. . . . Not only did Derek Chauvin deny George Floyd his human rights, he also showed utter disregard for George Floyd’s humanity. We must acknowledge the racist roots of law enforcement in this country if we are to address the systemic failures of policing and bring about meaningful public safety for those that have been historically overpoliced. This must include shrinking the size and scope of law enforcement in daily life, eliminating qualified immunity that creates a barrier to redress for victims of unlawful policing, demilitarizing law enforcement, and enacting strict limits on the use of force altogether.

Kristina Roth
Amnesty International USA
April 20, 2021

It’s hard to celebrate because George Floyd’s life was callously extinguished to bring us to this moment. It’s impossible for this verdict to singlehandedly end systemic injustice. But perhaps today is one small step toward the comprehensive healing we must undergo to confront white supremacy and fashion a new world. Trying to remain firmly grounded in reality, while maintaining my unshakeable idealism for a more just future.

Phillip Clark
April 20, 2021

I think this is less about justice and more about accountability, but the sound of an overwhelming sigh of relief was very welcomed today.

Carrie Chillman
April 20, 2021

This conviction must mark the beginning of true change in our country, where the criminal justice system has consistently failed to hold police officers accountable for the unwarranted killings and brutality that have disproportionately taken the lives of Black people and other people of color in traumatized communities. . . . Although today's verdict marks an important step forward, we call on leadership at every level of government to advance urgently needed policing reforms that bring about true racial justice and equality.

Abigail Dillen
April 20, 2021

While this verdict brings a certain rare form of accountability for police, achieving this outcome for Mr. Floyd is only one step in addressing police abuse of power, disparate treatment, and excessive force against Black and Brown communities. We still must radically change policing in Minnesota and across the country, increase accountability and transparency, and create policies that combat racism in policing. The jury's decision to convict Derek Chauvin does not negate the fact that Mr. Floyd’s tragic murder is part of a horrifying local and national pattern of officers using excessive force against people of color.

John Gordon
ACLU of Minnesota
April 20, 2021

Today’s verdict is an acknowledgement that police officers cannot get away with murder, but we still have a long way to go to achieve the justice demanded by so many protesters in the last year. . . . The fact that justice was done in this case cannot allow us to forget about the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Dion Johnson, among many others. But this case galvanized a movement for justice that has expanded across the country, rooted in longstanding demands for a reimagining of a criminal legal system built on anti-Black racism and white supremacy. Lawmakers at the state and federal level must begin holding officers accountable for police violence.

Margaret Huang
Southern Poverty Law Center
April 20, 2021

Today, so many people are exhaling with relief for the thousands who cannot: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Duante Wright, Adam Toledo, and so many more. A legal system that has been over-applied to Black and brown people and dramatically under-applied to law enforcement has now convicted one police officer. The verdict is deeply meaningful for being so rare. But we cannot mistake this for a transformative moment. We still pour billions more dollars into policing than into proven health-based violence prevention. Black people are still not safe when they're pulled over, jogging, even surrendering. And our nation has not been accountable to the harm of centuries of racist policies embedded in our justice system and far beyond it.

Shari Silberstein
Equal Justice USA
April 20, 2021

We cannot let today’s verdict allow us to become complacent about the challenges we face. We have to do better. Black people in America are exhausted with fear and anxiety every single day. Today's verdict is appropriate punishment for a single crime. But to honor the memory of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Adam Toledo, and so many others whose only 'crime' was being Black, we must work with greater effort and urgency than ever to bend the arc toward racial justice.

Lee Saunders
April 20, 2021

While today’s conviction is a necessary condition of justice, it is not sufficient. For centuries, Black people have faced violence at the hands of the state in our country. For centuries, systemic inequalities in the form of housing, income, education, and criminal justice have plagued our country – holding us back from our creed of liberty and justice for all. Let this be a turning point, where we finally create a society that reflects the belief that all men and women are created equal. Let this be the moment where we implement a broad anti-racist agenda to root out the inequalities that continue to plague us.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN)
April 20, 2021

Today’s verdict doesn’t mean we don't have a problem in law enforcement, but it does mean that a very important institution of American justice held today. . . . We all know that one decision in one murder trial is not going to fix everything. The problems are gargantuan. But when we see any aspect of our system hold then it can give all of us hope and faith in what we do. We can get it right. . . . We can demonstrate that every human life matters.

And today our system said George Floyd’s life mattered.

Marianne Williamson
April 20, 2021

Related Off-site Links:
Derek Chauvin Found Guilty On All Charges in George Floyd’s Death – Sara Boboltz and Hayley Miller (The Huffington Post, April 20, 2021).
“An Important Step Forward for Justice”: Reactions to Chauvin’s Guilty VerdictsMPR News (April 20, 2021).
Tears and Relief Sweep Intersection Where George Floyd Died – The Associated Press via MPR News (April 20, 2021).

UPDATE:Guilty Verdict in the Chauvin Trial Is Not Enough for Real Change – LZ Granderson (Common Dreams, April 21, 2021).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
“I Can’t Breathe”: The Murder of George Floyd
He Called Mama. He Has Called Up Great Power
Honoring George Floyd
“New and Very Dangerous”: The Extreme Right-Wing Infiltration of the George Floyd Protests
Mayor Melvin Carter: “The Anger Is Real, and I Share It With You”
Emma Jordan-Simpson: “There Will Be No Peace Without Justice”
Out and About – Spring 2020
A Very Intentional First Day of the Year
Bearing Witness
“And Still and All, It Continues”
The Problem Is Ultimately Bigger Than Individuals. It’s Systemic
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz: “We Need to Make Systemic Changes”

Minneapolis images: Michael J. Bayly.

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