By Brad Brooks
(Reuters) – The trial and conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd came to America at a crossroads, a moment of suffering but also a possibility, something historians and activist compared to Civil Rights.
From race and policy relations to the criminal justice system, the three-week Derek Chauvin trial has become “a symbol and representation of our emotions, fears, and hopes. around this whole issue, “said David Greenberg, professor of historical and media studies at Rutgers University.
The audience for the trial is hard to measure, but it can be huge given the variety of streaming services that make it live.
Even the president is very attentive. Joe Biden phoned Floyd’s family after Tuesday’s ruling, which he said could be a step “in the march towards justice in America.”
It was a case of preparing more than a Black human death at the hands of a white police officer that was emphasized throughout the trial – just miles away a black man was shot dead by an officer. the white police pulled him over for a traffic violation.
The trial resonated even more with Floyd’s death captured in a painful intimate video showing Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost 10 minutes, with two other officers on his back.
Civil rights historian Clayborne Carson, director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Institute. at Stanford University, was beaten by police during civil rights protests of the 1960s.
Later, Carson said, episodes of agitation and activity were marked by atrocities that touched the public: The 1955 murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy was murdered in Mississippi after a woman white women lie about being offended; children shooting during a civil rights march in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963; and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968.
Carson points to the video of Floyd’s murder – filmed by Darnella Frazier, a teen passer-by with her cell phone, shared around the world via social media and shown multiple times during the trial she testified – the main cause of his death and the trial of him the killer has attracted such attention.
In the video, Floyd lay on his stomach on the street, telling police he couldn’t breathe and mourning his deceased mother. Chauvin’s attorneys have argued that he attended his police training course.
Mary Moriarty was chief of public defender at Hennepin County, where Floyd died, until last year. She says she has long tried to draw attention to episodes of police brutality reported to her office, often captured by officers’ wearable cameras.
Moriarty recalled his horror while watching Floyd’s video.
“Poor George Floyd is begging for his life, and here you have a policeman who just casually kills him in the middle of a day in front of people around, begging him to stop. , and he knows he’s being filmed, and he keeps doing it, “she said. “So I think this is the final straw here.”
Police departments in many US cities are engaged with community leaders on dozens of reform efforts made since Floyd was murdered. Most of the reforms have focused on banning controversial tactics – such as strangling – and holding the wrongdoers more accountable.
However, the changes are mostly at the proposed stage and don’t go far enough for many activists.
The problems of racism and police brutality “not only arose when George Floyd breathed his last,” said Congressman Andrea Jenkins, who represents Ward 8 of Minneapolis, including shows where Floyd was killed.
But closing the pandemic, she said, allows Americans to see the problem more deeply. With life slowing down, people have time to watch and reflect on the video that killed Floyd.
His death and the trial come in a time of anxiety and vulnerability in the US, with more than half a million people dying from the virus, and economic instability and political divisions are teetering the land. country.
For Mark Bray, a historian and author of human rights, the present political and social era began many years before Floyd’s pandemic and death.
The most recent era of activity awakened in 2011 during a month of Wisconsin state occupation, when protesters opposed a proposed anti-union bill, Bray said.
It continued during the original Black Lives Matter rallies following the 2014 Michael Brown murder in Ferguson, Missouri, and the protests followed by several African-American murders by the police.
“The pattern for radical resistance over the past decade is something that happens in a city – and then it spread when others ask ‘what are we going to do in our city,’ says Bray. Are we to show unity? ‘.
But protests about Floyd’s death extend beyond those who might accept the term radical; Ordinary people who could not protest have appeared in major rallies around the world.
Patrick Ngwolo, a Houston-based crime defense attorney and pastor who met Floyd more than a decade ago, said such protests must be built to draw attention to the root causes of the violence. police and racism.
He said guilty sentences are essential – but the country also faces bigger problems going on.
“What will we be like as a country that has tried to create all this, to try to resolve the centuries of systemic racism that this country has gone through?” he say. “What will we be like when we think about sitting down and coming up with these yet to become unifying ways of the United States of America?”