by M. Anthony Davis
I can’t describe the wave of emotion I experienced hearing the reading of the verdict. Guilty on all counts. I had spent so much energy refusing to believe justice would be served that I never allowed myself to even consider the idea that Chauvin would be found guilty of all charges. Now that it has happened, I’m in shock.
After about 10 hours of deliberation, the jury in the Derek Chauvin trial found Chauvin, the officer who was filmed with his knee on the neck of George Floyd, guilty on charges of third-degree murder, second-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. The verdict was followed by both cheers and tears from those awaiting the decision outside the courthouse in Minneapolis.
The killing of George Floyd in May 2020 sparked protests nationwide and catapulted the Black Lives Matter movement to the forefront of American media. In many cases, protests in cities like Seattle, Portland, and New York led to a firestorm in the media with pundits on the right and the left debating the protests themselves just as much as the police violence that was being protested.
The first time I remember hearing the phrase, “Black Lives Matter!” chanted was back in 2014. This was after George Zimmerman was acquitted of charges for killing Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown had just been murdered by police in Ferguson, Missouri. I can’t begin to name all of the Black people killed by police between then and now that received no justice. Today’s victory feels both monumental and overdue.
It will be easy for folks to jump out and say that this win is a grain of sand in a desert of injustice. And they are right. But this victory has meaning. This victory declares that George Floyd’s life has meaning. That my life has meaning. And not just to you and me — that was never in question. But now Black Lives Matter to the courts. This case has the potential to set the precedent that police cannot continue to kill unarmed Black people with impunity.
While I encourage folks to take the time to celebrate victory in the courts, we must still remember a few things. George Floyd is not here to celebrate. His life is forever lost, and his family will forever mourn him. But we have the opportunity to build in his name and expand his legacy. This can start with the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
While not loved by all activists, this bold and comprehensive bill is aimed at holding police accountable for misconduct, ensuring that a registry is created to prevent problematic cops from being rehired in different jurisdictions, ending qualified immunity for law enforcement, and protecting the public from excessive force via chokeholds and other tactics used to cause harm. If this Policing Act becomes law, it will be a historical step in police reform and potentially create a path for massive shifts in the culture of policing. I admit that this bill is not perfect, and creating laws that police will actually follow has been difficult. But I think it is a pivotal step in the right direction. Especially if it ends qualified immunity and stops taxpayers from footing the bill when cops are sued for misconduct. If we are ever going to change the culture of policing in this country, we must do it with solid legislation that guarantees accountability.
But for today, we can take a collective sigh of relief. For all of us who watched the video of Floyd’s death and for all of those citizens, including children, who were there to bear witness to Floyd’s death, today justice was served. Tomorrow the fight will continue.
We must demand justice for Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo and the names that will continue to be added to this list. We must not forget Manuel Ellis. We must not forget the struggle and pain that has led us to this moment. As political pundits and politicians step out to make statements, we must not let up. Black bodies are still being brutalized on their watch.
Our push for justice must continue.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article misspelled the name Daunte Wright. The article was updated to correct the error.
M. Anthony Davis (Mike Davis) is a local journalist covering arts, culture, and sports.
📸 Featured Image: Protester at a Black Lives Matter march in Othello Park on June 7, 2020. (Photo: Alex Garland)
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