George Floyd’s murder shook up the world. The video of Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and twenty-nine minutes outraged protesters. This murder sparked the “Summer of Reckoning.” Thousands of people, worldwide, took to the streets to protest the inhumane killing, demand justice, and declare that Black Lives Matter.
So, when Chauvin was found guilty of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, it was a historic moment. For the first time in U.S. history, a white cop was found guilty of all the charges brought against him for murdering a black man.
Floyd’s family, civil right leaders, mothers of unarmed Black children killed by police, and justice seekers in front of the courthouse and at George Floyd Square cried tears of joy and relief.
The victory was both brief and bittersweet. Verdict aside, what black analysts, professors, former police, and current police know is that the conviction of Chauvin may prove to be an aberration. The killings of black people by white police continues. There is an epidemic of systemic racism is U.S. in all of its institutions. This includes the ranks of officers who swear to protect and serve the public.
Even before Chauvin’s trial began, while the trial was going on, and after the trial white cops continued to kill black people. From March 29th to the beginning of the trial, the AP reported that the police killed 64 people.
Three days later after the verdict, the Floyd family and their attorney, Ben Crump, Reverend Al Sharpton, Mothers of the Movement—women whose unarmed children were murdered by white cops and white racist citizens– Marc Morial and Jesse Jackson, among others, attended the funeral of Daunte Wright, Sr., 20, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Kim Potter, a 26 year veteran of the Brooklyn Center Police Department killed Wright two weeks after the Chauvin trial began. Potter is charged with second degree manslaughter.
Two days after his murder, Katie Wright, Daunte’s mother called for accountability. In doing so, she shared the solution to systemic racism. Accountability.
“The last few days, everybody has asked me what we want, and everybody keeps saying, ‘Justice,’ but unfortunately, there’s never going to be justice for us,” said Wright. “Justice isn’t even a word to me. I do want accountability, 100% accountability…”
Her words spread like wildfire. Accountability is now seen as a way to stop the killing.
The first black person elected statewide in Minnesota is Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. He is also the first Muslim person elected statewide there. In addressing the nation after the verdict Ellison echoed Mrs. Wright’s sentiment.
“This has to end. We need true justice. That’s not one case, that’s a social transformation: that says that that nobody’s beneath the law and nobody is above it,” Ellison said while calling for “enduring systemic societal change.
“Another way to prevent it (police misconduct) is with accountability,” Ellison continued. Passing laws and instituting policies and training is important but they must be more than words on paper and there must be accountability for violating them.”
“I would not call today’s verdict “justice,” because justice implies true restoration. But it is accountability, which is the first step towards justice. And now the cause of justice is in your hands. And when I say your hands, I mean the hands of the people of the United States,” Ellison said.
“Today we have to end this travesty of recurring and enduring deaths at the hands of law enforcement. The work of our generation is to put unaccountable law enforcement behind us.”
“ACCOUNTABILITY,” the N.B.A.’s top star, LeBron James, said in a one-word post on Twitter after Chauvin’s conviction.
“This one verdict will not address systemic failures and patterns of discriminatory practices in the way they treat citizens,” U.S. Attorney General Merritt Garland said, when announcing an independent federal investigation into the Minnesota Police Department. Depending on the findings of the investigation, the Department of Justice can file a lawsuit. It would then force the department to make changes via a Consent Decree.
Garland said there must be a “system of accountability” to stop police abuse, brutality, and the killings of unarmed citizens.
Qualified immunity almost allows police to do whatever they want. Police are seldom held accountable for their actions because of qualified immunity. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley called for an end to qualified immunity. She wrote, “Across the country, police officers continue to escape accountability when they break the law, shielded from liability by the doctrine of qualified immunity,”
The Supreme Court invented the qualified immunity doctrine. This prevents police officers from being successfully sued for abuse of power or misconduct unless a prior case has “clearly established” that the abuse or misconduct is illegal, she explained.
“The Court’s broad interpretation of this doctrine allows police to violate constitutional rights with impunity, immunizing them for everything from unlawful traffic stops to brutality and murder. Qualified immunity shields police from accountability, impedes true justice, and undermines the constitutional rights of every person in this country. It’s past time to end qualified immunity.”
Civil rights activists, lawyers, elected officials, and college professors who advocate for justice all agree with Pressley. And they are exerting political pressure on U.S. Senators to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.The House of Representatives passed the bill. It Includes-
- Ending qualified immunity
- banning chokeholds
- holding individual police officers accountable
- holding police departments accountable.
Senate Republicans selected Senator Tim Scott, a black man, to negotiate a compromise with Representative Karen Bass, the bill’s sponsor. Republicans are not in favor of abolishing qualified immunity. Nor are some conservative democrats, Sen. Joe Manchin, chief among them. Scott will deliver the rebuttal to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address.
The Republicans’ choice of Scott brings to mind Fiddler in the film “Roots, who Massa always sent to keep his fellow slaves in line. Just saying….
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