April 20, 2021 the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin was “guilty” on all three indictments, which included second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter, in the killing of George Floyd. Justice, in a small form, has been served. A white police officer is being held accountable for the brazen murder of a black man. This verdict has created a mix of emotions in me. I am relieved, grateful, grieved, and hopeful.
The killing of George Floyd sparked outrage around the world. His murder was only one in a long line of black individuals killed by police over the years. The difference this time, was that his murder was witnessed by the world. Public video recordings, and later police body cameras, showed police officer Derek Chauvin slowly choke the life out of George Floyd by pressing his knee into his neck over the course of nine minutes and 29 seconds while handcuffed and on the concrete in a prone position.
Passersby tried to get the police to get off George’s neck and body as he cried out “I can’t breathe”! Unfortunately, the public’s attempts to save George Floyd fell on deaf ears and forceful police resistance. George died of asphyxiation as the world watched in horror and disgust. This was a horrific, painful death reminiscent of lynching’s of the past. Chauvin’s actions were intended to incite fear into the heart of his victim, as well as those watching. It not only incited fear at the time this was happening, but it also incited the world to protest police brutality and call for police reform.
We have known for centuries that black and brown people have been subjected to a plethora of injustices, including police brutality and murder. However, seeing this murder unfold, live on camera, opened the eyes of Americans and other nations around the world. No one could watch the video and say, “it didn’t happen”. We all watched, with eyes wide open, in horror, anger, disgust and sorrow. No one could say “he deserved to die”. George Floyd was not a perfect man, but his encounter with Derek Chauvin never should have resulted in a slow, agonizing death. Derek Chauvin chose to keep his knee on George’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds and to keep his hand in his front pant pocket as if taunting the bystanders to see that he was in control. He was the law, and nobody could stop him.
I am relieved that the blue wall of law enforcement came down and officers in the police force, FBI and others testified against Derek Chauvin and the unreasonable force he used against George Floyd. I am grateful the jury found Derek Chauvin guilty and that he could not hide behind qualified immunity. I am grieved for the loss suffered by the Floyd family and them having to witness George’s murder. I am also grieved for the Chauvin family. They had nothing to do with the decision Derek made on that fateful day, but they will have to live with that knowledge and the consequences that go with it for the rest of their lives. With that being said, I am hopeful for a brighter tomorrow.
While I would like our police and judicial systems to be overhauled for equality within the system immediately, I know it will take time. Police brutality and systemic racism did not happen overnight, nor will it go away overnight. It is our responsibility to ensure policies, laws and policing are changed to truly protect and serve all lives. It is our responsibility to lift our voices for police reform and to become active in our own communities. We can no longer be bystanders watching the horror of lives taken too soon and then blaming the victims for their deaths. Too many black and brown lives have been taken. Too many families have been faced with their loved one being killed and then having to see and hear their deceased loved one being dragged through the mud to try and justify the deadly force used by police. We must start looking at the immediate situation, actions and reactions and then draw conclusions from the evidence at the time and location of the incident. We must put an end to qualified immunity for law enforcement as it currently exists. No one should have loopholes to keep them from being accountable for their actions.
My emotions are still muddled over the death of George Floyd and the conviction of Derek Chauvin. One case. One verdict. One small win for humanity. One family lost a loved one forever. One family lost a loved one to the prison system for a short period of time. Two families, multiple lives, and communities around the world will forever be impacted by this incident, trial, and verdict.
Change is going to come!