originally appeared on One Minnesota Writer, April 21, 2021
I almost forgot that I needed to write my weekly post for One Minnesota Writer, that Tuesday is my dedicated writing day. My attention was locked on the Derek Chauvin trial, on the fact that the jury was in deliberations and National Guard troops were scattered around Minneapolis.
Around 2:30 Tuesday afternoon, I checked on the news to see if there were developments and there it was: a verdict had been reached. It would be read between 3:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.
I flipped on the local station that had covered the Chauvin trial all the way through, plopped into the middle of the couch, and waited. The jury hadn’t been in deliberations all that long; it seemed like a conviction was a good possibility. I couldn’t possibly think of anything else in that moment.
The judge, jury, lawyers and defendant didn’t get back to the courtroom until a little after 4:00. There was news footage of people gathering in George Floyd Square to await the verdict. People gathered outside the courthouse, too, of course. I imagined thousands of people in the Twin Cities and beyond also waiting, glued to televisions and computers and cells phones.
Finally, the judge opened the envelope from the jury, began to read. The camera in the courtroom shifted to Chauvin’s face. As the judge pronounced the guilty verdict for each of the three counts against Chauvin, Chauvin himself showed no emotion. I remembered how Chauvin’s face looked in the video of him with his knee on George Floyd’s neck; he appeared devoid of emotion then, too.
When George Floyd’s family appeared at a new conference after the verdict was read, after Chauvin was taken out in handcuffs, and after Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison thanked the prosecution team, they were jubilant. They showed tremendous emotion – joy, relief, celebration. Finally, a conviction for the loss of a Black life at the hands of law enforcement. Finally, a piece of justice, a glimmer of hope. When the news cameras returned to George Floyd Square, there was also an outpouring of joy that someone was held accountable. Finally.
As I typed this, I kept the tv on. I watched Philonise Floyd choke up as he tried to talk about his brother’s murder, as he said we have to march, we will have to do this for life…..we won’t be able to breathe until you are able to breathe…we’re going to fight for everybody. Justice for George means freedom for all.
Later, I learned a Black teenage girl had been shot and killed by a cop in Columbus, Ohio, right around the time the Chauvin verdict was read. I learned that, since the Chauvin trial began, something like three people a day have been killed by law enforcement in this country. I thought about Daunte Wright and wondered if now-resigned Brooklyn Center cop Kim Potter would be convicted in his death. I saw the Tweet from Darnella Frazier expressing her relief that Chauvin was convicted and I hoped everyone would remember that her video was crucial in getting that conviction.
My initial reaction to the verdict that this was justice was wrong. It was a little sliver of justice, maybe, but that isn’t the right word. My daughter-in-law posted on Facebook about this being accountability. Yes, that is a better word. Accountability. Consequences. And will this kind of accountability be seen again? Will it be seen in Kim Potter’s case? In any of the other cases that have happened since the start of the Chauvin trial? Will it be seen even without the very publicly shared video of one teenager who did not look away?
What are you called to do for life? Will you fight for everybody? Can you breathe? If you can, then you have work to do.
So do I.