Interviews with numerous elected officials, social activists and community leaders Wednesday yielded a startling similarity. The guilty verdicts from a jury in the case of former police officer Derek Chauvin reflected accountability. Justice is still a work in progress.
Convicting Chauvin of second-degree murder in the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in Minneapolis last summer, was the right thing to do. The evidence was clear, and the whole shocking tragedy was recorded by a 17-year-old girl who had the presence of mind to turn on her cellphone. We could also mention Chauvin’s visible, on-camera arrogance, Floyd’s plea of “I can’t breathe!” and a dozen other details.
Much of the local reaction was consistent with that of Catskill’s Mercedes Brantley, a March village trustee candidate, who offered this: “It’s really not a win for anybody,” she said. “It’s accountability being applied and I guess that’s a start. Cops were still killing people during the trial. During the verdict, a 15-year-old was shot and killed by police out in Ohio. Police are still killing people all over the country.”
That is an accurate summation of reality in the United States for Black men, women and children fearing senseless retaliation because they are people of color.
But let’s not lose sight of this reality. The American system of justice is far from perfect. Yet it is also far from broken, as many argue when a verdict doesn’t go their way. The justice system worked in the Chauvin case. A man was tried, his case was heard by a jury of his peers and that jury deliberated and handed up its verdict.
In closing, we should note here that Chauvin’s — shall we call it his murder weapon — was one knee. That suggested another knee, one belonging to an unemployed NFL quarterback named Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee during the playing of the national anthem at a San Francisco 49ers football game to protest police brutality.
A yearning for peace and the cry for accountability, or justice — call it what you will — came full circle Wednesday.