The trial of former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin paralyzed the entire world while awaiting a sentence that would grant some justice to George Floyd‘s family.
Last Tuesday, the jury found Chauvin guilty on three counts: second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and involuntary manslaughter.
The decision resulted from a long process, not only judicial but social, amid protests that convulsed the entire world last year and mobilized communities of color as not seen since the Civil Rights movements.
On May 25, 2020, Chauvin was responding to a disturbance call on a Minneapolis street that resulted in Chauvin kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, an African-American man in his early 40s, for nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed, lying face down in the street and screaming “I can’t breathe.”
Following Floyd’s choking death, Chauvin was fired by the Minneapolis Police Department. Four days later, he was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.
The incident sparked pent-up anger in the community of color after years of unwarranted violence at the hands of law enforcement. Protests across the country — and the world — were organized in the months that followed.
The courage of witnesses
Sadly, George Floyd’s death is one of the hundreds of thousands across the country and around the world due to a lack of law enforcement accountability.
However, it was the bravery of witnesses to the murder that ultimately led to justice.
According to USA Today’s analysis, while prosecutor Jerry Blackwell presented “common sense” as the symbolic witness in the case against Chauvin, it was the video of what happened outside the Minneapolis Cup Foods that would make the case.
The indelible video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes swayed public opinion long before the trial began last month, along with footage from surveillance cameras and police body cameras, which figured prominently during Monday’s testimony and closing arguments.
Perhaps more than in the courtroom, video has played a prominent role in television coverage of the trial, a visual medium in which what people see can be more powerful than what they hear, the media outlet explained. And it continued that role Monday when Blackwell advised the jury: “You can believe your eyes, ladies and gentlemen. It was what you thought it was. It was what you saw. It was homicide.”
Will finding Derek Chauvin guilty be enough?
As Tara McKelvey, BBC White House reporter explained, the jubilation on the streets over the Chauvin verdict appears to be just the beginning.
Activists on the streets assured the media outlet that justice has been served and that they feel as if a weight has been lifted, as few officers are charged with murder or manslaughter, let alone convicted.
But the protesters said the calls for justice for George Floud do not stop after this verdict. Citizens hope for comprehensive police reform.
“That a family had to lose a son, brother, and father; that a teenage girl had to film and post a murder … just for George Floyd to be seen and valued is not justice,” Bronx Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.
“This verdict is not a substitute for policy change,” she concluded.