The guilty on all charges verdict won’t change the culture of excessive policing overnight but sends a strong message that enough is enough.
Finally, we can breathe.
The guilty on all charges verdict rendered in the George Floyd murder trial sent a message that was as indisputable as the video showing the former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, with his knee on Floyd’s neck.
It was not just excessive force. It was murder.
The disgraced police officer was charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
He was tried before a diverse jury that included four white women and two white men, three Black men and one Black woman, and two mixed-race women.
Even the most skilled defense attorneys could not erase the image of Chauvin — his hands in his pockets as if he were in repose — effortlessly taking Floyd’s life in the middle of the street, in front of a crowd of witnesses pleading with him to stop.
It was an act that was so cold, it could only be called a murder.
The video, captured on a passerby’s cell phone, will haunt America tomorrow, in the same way that the black-and-white photos of Black men lynched in the South during Jim Crow haunt us today.
And just as the open casket of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black boy who was brutally beaten and lynched in Mississippi in 1955, jump-started the civil rights movement in urban cities, Floyd’s death at the hands of a white police officer woke up a new generation of resistors.
While the majority of the protests over Floyd’s murder were peaceful, there were enough violent clashes with police to put the nation on alert.
Something had to change.
Despite the character flaws that Chauvin’s defense attorneys tried to exploit during the trial, Floyd’s murder stirred up the masses.
His murder triggered an awakening in places you least expected, like corporate suites and boardrooms where “diversity, equity and inclusion” have become a priority.
Floyd’s murder also forced more white people who were blind to racism to see the foot that remains on the necks of Black and Brown people.
Getting justice for Floyd is a step toward healing in urban cities where the relationship between Black and Brown residents and police has deteriorated.
The guilty on all charges verdict is not only a victory for George Floyd’s family and supporters.
It is a victory for all the families that were denied justice under similar circumstances.
Many of these grieving families got monetary settlements and apologies, but they didn’t get justice.
Although the video clearly showed Chauvin had a knee on Floyd’s neck and expert witnesses testified that was what killed him, the fear remained that somehow Chauvin would get off.
That has happened too many times.
For instance, in 2012, Dante Servin, was an off-duty detective when he fired into a crowd, killing 22-year-old Rekia Boyd. It took nearly two years for then-Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to charge Servin with involuntary manslaughter.
Servin was acquitted in 2015 when a judge ruled he was incorrectly charged and should have been charged with first-degree murder.
The guilty verdicts, in this case, aren’t going to change the culture of excessive force that led to Chauvin thinking he was justified in doing what he did to Floyd.
It also won’t magically change the distrust of police officers that exist in some communities.
But whenever justice triumphs over injustice, it chips away at that distrust.
At least now, we can breathe.