Photo: May 31, 2020, march in San Francisco demanding justice for George Floyd. Liberation photo: Gloria La Riva
After committing the murder that shook the country and led to worldwide protests, police officer Derek Chauvin’s trial started March 8 in Minneapolis. It quickly adjourned pending a decision by a higher court. Chauvin, a former cop with the Minneapolis Police Department who brutally killed George Floyd on May 25, 2020, is charged with second degree “unintentional” murder and second-degree manslaughter. The other three officers involved in this ruthless killing are slated to stand trial in August.
Jury selection was scheduled to begin that first day, but an unresolved dispute between the prosecution and defense over what charges the court will be considering led to a delay. Chauvin’s lawyers are attempting to prevent the reinstatement of an additional charge — third-degree murder. This maneuver could potentially stall proceedings for weeks.
The defense team is planning to argue that factors other than Chauvin’s actions led to Floyd’s death. This is a shameful claim when video evidence viewed countless millions of times around the world clearly shows Chauvin strangling Floyd by kneeling on his neck. Anything less than a conviction on all counts in this case will be a travesty of justice.
But the U.S. court system has a long history of extreme bias in favor of law enforcement, especially when their victim is Black. The police officers who participated in the infamous beating of Rodney King in 1991, for instance, were acquitted — an outcome that sparked the 1992 Los Angeles uprising. The Supreme Court ruling in City of Los Angeles v. Lyons in 1983 blocked protections for victims of police chokeholds, even if multiple witnesses corroborate the violation.
Minneapolis-area prosecutors did not even file charges against Chauvin immediately following the killing. It was only four days later that insultingly light manslaughter charges were filed, which were finally upgraded to murder charges on June 3. These charges were brought because of the enormous pressure exerted by the nationwide rebellion that began in Minneapolis and then spread in the following days across the country and eventually around the world. The movement challenged the particular killers in Floyd’s murder as well as the system of racist policing as a whole.
People in Minneapolis are continuing this struggle. On March 7, hundreds took to downtown streets in a rally organized to demand justice for George Floyd and the 400 others killed due to police brutality in the state of Minnesota. A demonstration was also held March 8.
Fearing another massive uprising if Chauvin is not convicted, Minneapolis and Hennepin County are set to spend more than $1 million on barricades ahead of the verdict. Thousands of police officers and the National Guard also plan to be present on the ground, prepared to carry out large-scale repression if Chauvin is acquitted just as they did throughout the previous summer months. The response by the government shows their true priorities; there are seemingly endless resources available to maintain “law and order,” but we are told that the money to meet working people’s needs simply does not exist.
Anything but a conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd will rightfully be furiously rejected by millions of people across the country. If the trial does produce some semblance of justice, it will be due to the relentless pressure of the people’s movement fighting a system that is racist to the core.