A verdict can only do so much; real progress arises from structural change. By Dylan Lee.
Thousands of eyes turned to the city of Minneapolis as they awaited the fate of Derek Chauvin. The streets of Minneapolis had been boarded up for weeks. People crowded outside the courthouse, prepared to take the streets. The National Guard stood waiting for violence to erupt. All of this in anticipation of a verdict that took 11 months to arrive. A verdict that took the jury just 11 hours to decide. A verdict that brought relief for some and for others, anger.
According to CNN, former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty for the murder of George Floyd and was convicted on all three charges brought against him by the state of Minnesota: second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. The verdict was reached after three weeks of witness testimony and over ten hours of deliberation by a sequestered jury.
Chauvin’s actions gained national attention after a video was released in which Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes during a police interaction May 25, 2020.
Derek Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison when his sentencing takes place in eight weeks. While the pain of the people outside the courthouse had not been immediately alleviated, you could see that a huge burden had been lifted from their shoulders. The relief they must have felt when the judge read out the verdict was unforgettable, but that is not where the story ends.
A verdict doesn’t bring George Floyd home to his family. A verdict doesn’t bring justice for Daunte Wright and every other black person who has suffered violence at the hands of the police. A single verdict can never end the suffering. The Chauvin verdict is a step toward progress and change, but change is thousands of steps away.
To fix our broken system we must start at the very bottom, the front line of our justice system, we must start by reforming our police. Some Americans are granted the luxury of a trial by jury while for others, a single police officer serves as jury, judge and executioner.
Police brutality was not solved at 4:07 p.m. on a Tuesday, but this case inspired the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that if enacted, would prohibit law enforcement from racially profiling suspects, ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants, create a police misconduct registry, and heavily restrict qualified immunity. Its time to call our representatives and ask them to support this legislation, and if that’s not your style, do your best to educate others on it. Whether it’s having a discussion or just posting about it on your Instagram story, anything helps. Banning chokeholds may not solve all our problems, but it’s a great start. Keeping the momentum alive is crucial to dismantle the horrendous systemic racism in our nation.
If you want to go the extra mile, there’s more to creating lasting change than just calling your representatives. If you’re able, go to a protest or demonstration. It’s no secret that the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder jumpstarted the effort to charge and convict Derek Chauvin. If done responsibly, protests can foster a strong sense of urgency among lawmakers for any cause you support.
Injustice happens all around us, and if you see it, point a camera at it. Film it, livestream it, record the audio even. Without Darnella Frazier’s video of the murder of George Floyd, the verdict could just have easily been “not guilty.” When we call out injustice we help stop it.
The case of Derek Chauvin and George Floyd isn’t America’s wake-up call; we’ve just been hitting snooze for far too long. The bill passed the House in early March. Since then, the bill hasn’t been taken up by the Senate. At this point, the bill hasn’t been assigned to a Senate committee yet. Let’s contact our Senators to state your position on this matter.
Our representative and senators have been elected to serve all of us and upwards of a million to tens of millions of our fellow Americans, but by law they each only have a small team of correspondents on staff to read and respond to all of their mail.
Be patient and respectful to the staff member you reach — remember, you want them on your side.
The way to stand out is to provide a brief but specific personal story about how this bill would affect your life. If you don’t have a personal story, you may want to write or call about a different topic.
Do they want to hear from us? Yes! They need our support for the next election. But that doesn’t mean you’ll change their mind. On hot issues, their vote is often already made up. But on other issues, we could be their first constituent to weigh in. For your convenience, I have posted a guideline below on how you can do your part to ensure the fate of H.R. 7120 (116th): George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020.