If Derek Chauvin had not been convicted for taking George Floyd’s life it would have been an indictment on the American system of justice. The Floyd verdict was important to America. However, the nervousness felt by so many, me included, said that an acquittal was possible.
The George Floyd saga was historic for several reasons. Like the Civil Rights events in the 1960s Floyd’s trial was aided by a new technology used by most folks. Back 60 years ago it was the television and today it was the cellphone camera. Both allowed the public to see things with their own eyes.
Everyone my age can remember the visual of Alabama’s Democrat Commissioner of Public Safety, Bull Connors, turning on the fire hoses on peaceful Black protesters and a German Shepard police dog chewing on the arm of a young Black man. And now, my grandchildren will remember the visual of a white man in a blue uniform pressing his knee on the neck of a Black man handcuffed on the ground, saying “I can’t breathe.”
The former incident led to the landmark Civil Rights Bill of 1964. Other Civil Rights Bills followed intent on improving the lives of Black Americans by creating more fairness and opportunities. Time will tell the by-products of the Floyd incident.
Prior to the cellphone camera we would have had to rely on eyewitness reports. There could have been conflicting versions or witnesses may have refused to step forward due to fear, intimidation or simply not wanting to ‘get involved’. Unfortunately for Chauvin, his era of policing Black people was thwarted by technology. For Bull Connors, the nation saw what was happening in the South.
For Chauvin, there was a clear consensus from society that a guilty verdict had to happen. It was also a decisive decision in the 1960s that Blacks could no longer be treated like second class citizens. America was big enough to share more of its fruits with those who did not look like them, the majority population.
For Chauvin, the typical defense had been waged and in the past it had worked. After all the Black man was being accused of a crime (passing a counterfeit $20 bill); the original police report was incorrect; the autopsy report claimed that drugs and a previous health condition were contributing factors to Floyd’s death. The band of brothers’ allegiance? It fell apart, shocking. Police were willing to testify against one of their own; and lastly, debunking the police officer’s claim of being in a threatening position because of the crowd -– cameras told otherwise.
However, just one member of the jury had to have a reasonable doubt and Chauvin would be a free man today. Scary.
The Floyd murder was historic for another reason other than the use of technology. It helped to change the trajectory of the 2020 presidential election. Joe Biden owes his presidency to George Floyd to a degree. Not because of what Biden did, more due to what Donald Trump did not do. Yes, Biden showed more compassion but no true actions.
How do we stop this from happening again? We know that we have not seen a Black police officer kill an unarmed white person. What does that tell us?
Possible solutions today could be some old fashion solutionsa: take away a person’s freedom and/or wealth which should result in a change in behavior.
The police officers pay membership union dues for support, salary negotiations, grievance assistance, safety/training improvements, health ansd pension benefits negotiations, legal defense, etc.…They are tied to the hip.
In Civil Rights cases of this kind (death or serious injury) they should be at least partially responsible for the payment of the $27 million dollars in damages to the Floyd family. The City of Minneapolis should not be totally responsible when they are truly partnered with the police union. Being responsible for paying part of the bill could change things.
Former Congressman Gary Franks (CT-5, 1991-1997) was the first Black Republican elected to the US House of Representatives in nearly 60 years and is New England’s first black Member of the U.S. House of Representatives.