Maggie Connolly ’21
Chief Opinions Editor
On Tuesday, Derek Chauvin, the officer who murdered George Floyd last year, was found guilty on three counts of murder: manslaughter, second degree murder, and third-degree murder. He will not be able to post bail as the judge determines his sentence. This is no doubt a victory, but it does not bring back the life of George Floyd, or the other Black lives lost at the hands of the police.
So, if this is not justice, what is it? According to Merriam-Webster, justice is the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments. To be true justice, Floyd would still be alive today. Likewise, this verdict does not replace the hundreds of other Black lives lost to police violence whose murderers were not convicted in Court. Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement after the verdict was delivered, “I would not call today’s verdict justice, however, because justice implies true restoration… But it is accountability, which is the first step towards justice,” he said. “George Floyd mattered,” (NBC News).
And that he did. Although the decision does not bring back lives lost, it sets a precedent. The conviction of Chauvin says that police officers can and will be held accountable for their actions. It reminds us that law enforcement is not the end all be all, and they are not exempt from misconduct.
The streets of Minneapolis erupted as the verdict was read. I watched a man in the crowd hold up three fingers, referencing to others around him that Chauvin was guilty of all three. “All three counts!” the crowd chanted, waving signs and flags clad with things like “Black Love,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “Justice for George Floyd.” It was a scene of joy, despite any anticipated upheaval.
The city had boarded up many businesses, as other cities have after the protests this summer, trying to protect the city from harm. However, the harm that seems most done to others in these circumstances are the harm police inflict on peaceful protestors. It is interesting, that even in a situation in which an officer is being tried for murdering a Black man, the warning from the city was about how the protestors might react to the verdict. Instead, @drewmagary on Twitter suggests, “Maybe cities should prepare for how COPS will react to certain verdicts.” It feels all too poignant, as protestors await accountability for the loss of a life, that the people remain the ones villainized.
Throughout all of the warnings, celebrations, and emotions, there is one young person who possibly made all the difference in this case: Darnella Frazier. Fraizer, who was seventeen at the time she recorded the longest and clearest bystander video of George Floyd’s murder. “It’s been nights, I stayed up apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life. But it’s like, it’s not what I should have done, it’s what he should have done,” said Darnella, referring to Chauvin, who was also in the courtroom, (New York Times).
This young girl’s testimony, along with the testimony of other bystanders, paramedics, fire personnel, and the teenage Cup Foods employee were referred to as a “Bouquet of humanity” by Attorney General Ellison, (NBC News). Darnella Frazier’s video was a moment of courage, but it was a moment she did not have to live through, especially not with her nine-year-old cousin by her side as they watched Chauvin kneel on George Floyd’s neck. It is a moment that I someday hope no other teenagers, cousins, friends, bystanders, or family members will have to live through again.