The reaction was swift and came down like floodgates to the Derek Chauvin trial verdict. And everyone has an opinion about it and what it means. Justice for George Floyd became a reality nearly a year after his death.
Chauvin, the former Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer who snuffed out the life of the 46-year-old Floyd by kneeling on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, was found guilty on all three charges that were brought against him a year ago.
“This is an important inflection point for police accountability and making our communities safe spaces for every human being,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. “Because every Black person in this country has a right to live, a right to breathe and a right to be a part of their community without fear of violence and senseless attack simply for the color of their skin.”
“The urgent matter before us is to dismantle the systemic racism that plagues us—to make the fight for anti-racism and equity a cornerstone of everything we do,” Weingarten continued. “To do this, we must continue to fight to address all the dimensions of inequality, including fighting for investments in communities of color—in education, community supports, healthcare, and neighborhood-based public safety. We must act in their names—George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others who died as a result of racism.”
The impact of Floyd’s death, which was captured on videotape by 18-year-old Darnella Frazier, who was 17 at the time of the May 25, 2020 incident, has been felt globally as protesters and marchers have walked continually in solidarity for justice. The deliberate killing of Floyd immediately called into question police brutality and excessive use of force against people of color, especially Black Americans.
As a result, massive protests took place, not just in American streets, but internationally as well. And all of this took place in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, those seeking justice would not relent from sounding off against what they perceived to be police abuse used on Floyd.
The American Psychological Association (APA) released a statement in which they discussed the emotional and mental toll that racism has had on Black Americans.
“While many people feel relief at this verdict, it is telling that we live in a nation where a verdict like this would ever be in question. This case’s conclusion does not eliminate the deeply rooted inequities that exist in our country and the racism and unconscious bias that permeate our structures and systems,” part of the APA statement reads.
“Black people experience collective and vicarious trauma that escalates with every murder of an unarmed Black person at the hands of police. These unconscionable acts take away an important sense of safety and normalcy and have long-lasting effects on mental and physical health. Injustice affects everyone. That is why we need to address systemic and structural factors, such as policies in law enforcement and criminal justice.”
The murder of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Daniel Prude, and Sean Reed, among others, sent this country into a racial tailspin in regards to the killing of Black people by police. Though this is but one case, however the conviction of Chauvin on counts of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, is being construed as a potential game-changer in law enforcement accountability.
Former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama weighed in on the highly-anticipated verdict with their own statement.
“Today, a jury in Minneapolis did the right thing.,” For almost a year, George Floyd’s death under the knee of a police officer has reverberated around the world — inspiring murals and marches, sparking conversations in living rooms and new legislation. But a more basic question has always remained: would justice be done? In this case, at least, we have our answer. But if we’re being honest with ourselves, we know that true justice is about much more than a single verdict in a single trial.”
Elected officials or politicians speaking their minds on issues such as public safety is one thing. But when it comes to athletes and activism, there are quite a few people who are not comfortable with the intermingling of the two. More Than a Vote, the social activist brand of athletes such as LeBron James, Damian Lillard, Draymond Green, Skylar Diggins, Sloane Stephens, and Patrick Mahomes, could give two hoots about that.
Whether it’s encouraging voting participation or speaking out on social and racial injustice, More Than a Vote has become a powerful advocate platform for today’s athletes. As such, More Than a Vote issued a statement on the Chauvin verdict. Here is an excerpt of that statement.
“Today is an emotional day for all of us,” the statement begins. “Not only do we finally have a verdict in a trial that felt like it lasted an eternity, but today’s events are bringing back a flood of memories for us as a coalition. George Floyd’s murder, along with those of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and too many others, brought us together nearly a year ago.
“We came together and channeled our anger in the moment into a sustained movement aimed at empowering our community,” the More Than a Vote statement continued. “We demanded change, we took on the forces of voter suppression, and we helped our people vote in record numbers. But we knew then that our work was always about more than a vote. It was about taking on the systems that oppress our people. So it is with the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. It’s about much more than a verdict.”
To U.S. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) delivering more than a guilty verdict against a rogue police officer who committed the murder of a U.S. citizen should come in the form of meaningful legislation. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a bill sponsored by California Congresswoman Karen Bass, would fulfill that mission.
“To be clear, the legal system in America remains deeply unjust. No one should die the way George Floyd did. A person’s murder should not have to garner global attention to result in accountability,” Pressley said. “We can’t bring George Floyd back, but we can, and we must legislate to deliver the critical resources our communities need to be freed from the endless loop of trauma we are experiencing daily. Our communities have been profiled. We have been surveilled. We have been brutalized. We have been murdered. And now we need precise, intentional policies to stop the cycle of trauma and death.”
Featured Image: A portrait of George Floyd by Peyton Scott Russell at East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo courtesy of Laurie Shaull via Flickr