I was preparing for the worst – for a not guilty verdict, for my hopes to be dashed yet again.
So, I did not ask them to get up. Instead, we all stayed seated while I waited for the verdict to come in regarding the Derek Chauvin trial.
Like the owners who boarded up their businesses in Minneapolis for fear of looting after the verdict, I had boarded my eyes shut.
I kept my head down. I refused to look up while waiting to hear from the jury. I had seen enough.
Watching George Floyd die last summer was already too much. I didn’t want to watch Chauvin get away with murder.
I had watched the trial for three weeks and listened to more than two dozen witnesses. The prosecution had provided videos of Floyd’s interactions with the police officers from multiple angles.
Still, I worried that the jury wouldn’t see it like I and millions more saw it.
Because when I saw the video, I screamed, “Get off of him!” and “No!” and “Stop!” I repeated after Floyd, “He can’t breathe.”
Of course, I could do nothing to stop it. I was holding my phone and looking at a screen.
I was witnessing the death of a man who is supposed to be “innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”
Ironically, Chauvin received due process, but Floyd did not, though one of these crimes is not like the other. Floyd was held accountable immediately, but Chauvin’s defense presented a case that blamed everyone but him.
This defense is not new.
“I felt threatened” so I shot him. “It looked like a gun” so I killed him. “I thought he was reaching for a weapon” so I drew mine. And now his body is traced by a chalk line.
Officers can shoot out of fear but African American men and women cannot react in kind. Why is it that only police officers can feel threatened and under attack? Because fear can go both ways.
Police officers want to go home to their families. Of course, they don’t want to die on the job. That is understandable.
Equally true is the fact that African American motorists don’t want to die during a “routine traffic stop.”
When we accept the police report on its face, we agree to accept one side of the story.
So often we are led to believe the police report, though there are bullets in his back and no explanation for her death. Because police officers are supposed to be the “good guys.”
But Walter Scott had no weapon and Sandra Bland was not suicidal. However, the report says, “He was fleeing the scene” and “she was resisting arrest.”
But what happens when reports are falsified? When those who swore an oath to “protect and serve” lie? How do we hold such persons accountable when innocent people die?
Because it wouldn’t be the first time. In fact, the American justice system has a long history, beginning with American slavery and made painfully clear in the era of lynching, of the unequal treatment of African Americans under the law.
Photographs were taken of African American men, women and children hanging from trees, their bodies dangling from bridges and being burned alive with throngs of people standing around smiling.
Still, it was said repeatedly that the crimes were committed “at the hands of persons unknown.”
This has been happening for far too long.
How then do we excuse these deaths as part of the job, reducing the loss of human life to a “mistake,” like in the case of Daunte Wright?
Officer Kimberly Potter claimed that she was reaching for her taser and mistakenly shot Wright with her gun – just miles away from the courthouse where the Chauvin trial took place. She later resigned and has since been charged with his murder.
But a mistake is leaving your keys in the door or picking up the wrong item at the grocery store.
Police officers are trained to use both a taser and a gun, for which Potter knows the difference. Make no mistake about it.
So, should we give police officers a pass? Because these “split-second decisions” leave unarmed African American people dead, chairs empty at family gatherings and create generational trauma, conflict and distrust between law enforcement and the community.
Nine minutes and 29 seconds, Floyd cried out until the very end.
I was worried that the jury wouldn’t hear him, that too much had been said about his past and his addiction.
Then, I heard the word, “guilty,” and it was repeated twice more. Chauvin convicted on all charges.
Floyd’s death was callous and the response to his pleas for help indifferent. I’m so glad that it wasn’t true of justice – this time.