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Chauvin’s Conviction is Just the Beginning

Derek Chauvin’s conviction in Minneapolis this Tuesday afternoon was a historic moment for racial justice movements across the United States, as Chauvin became the forty-fifth police officer in the United States to be convicted of “murder or manslaughter for on-duty shootings” since 2005, the second police officer convicted in Minnesota and the first white officer to be convicted in Minnesota who killed a Black person while on duty. The verdict, which found Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter, offers some accountability for Floyd’s death, but it will not bring true justice to George, his loved ones or his community, who mourn his passing. As news of Floyd’s murder circulated around the United States and the rest of the world over the summer of 2020 and Black Lives Matter movements took hold in cities and towns everywhere, many were inspired to actively explore their own biases and ignorance about systemic racism. This momentum must continue now that Chauvin’s verdict has been delivered. George’s life mattered, and the only way to honor his legacy, and the lives of so many other BIPOC taken by police, is to actively work to restructure and overhaul the deeply unequal systems that are the backbone of the United States.

Minnesota, like all of the country, has a long history of deep racial inequality and police violence against BIPOC without any semblance of accountability or justice. Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter after he killed Philando Castile in July 2016 in Falcon Heights, a small suburb of St. Paul. Less than a year earlier in November 2015, Minneapolis police officers were cleared through an internal investigation after killing Jamar Clark. Officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze were only put on desk duty after killing Clark, and they returned to their positions following the investigation. Most recently, Daunte Wright, a twenty-year old Black man, was shot and killed by Kim Potter in Brooklyn Center, just north of Minneapolis. Potter has since been charged with second-degree manslaughter and resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Department. In eight weeks, Judge Peter Cahill will sentence Chauvin, and the other three officers involved in Floyd’s death are expected to stand trial together in August of this year.

Members of Minneapolis' City Council promised to defund the police department, which would be a historic shift toward community support and social services in place of traditional policing, but the city has yet to reach an agreement as to how this model will be structured. In the meantime, minimal efforts have been made to lessen the force that police are authorized to use, and the guidelines allow for significant loopholes in how they are applied in interactions with civilians. Clearly, Daunte Wright’s death in the midst of Chauvin’s ongoing trial demonstrates the need for a radical overhaul and restructuring of law enforcement in the United States, as another Black man was killed mere miles from where Floyd died at 38th and Chicago. Furthermore, thirteen-year-old Adam Toledo’s death in Chicago days earlier serves as yet another reminder of the systemic racism and violence that lives within police forces across the nation.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz held a press conference on Tuesday night to discuss the conviction of Derek Chauvin and the continued need for work to create an equitable and anti-racist society: “True justice for George Floyd will come through real systemic change to prevent this from ever happening again. . . the tragic death last week of Daunte Wright showed the world once again how much work we have to do.” He spoke at length about how Minnesota is often “lifted up as a model of wellbeing” due to measurements of happiness, economic security, gender equity, healthcare access and care of children, but those statistics are “exactly the opposite” for Black and Brown Minnesotans. While Walz, like so many other leaders, has been far from perfect in his work towards anti-racist policies, his dialogue about these disparities is one that is often ignored and overlooked when talking about state-wide and nation-wide gauges of health, welfare, and safety.

Progress is slow, and Chauvin’s conviction is an important step toward dismantling systemically racist law enforcement and criminal justice systems in the United States. However, each person must hold every other person, including elected representatives and leaders, accountable for change. Call your local representatives to demand justice when injustices occur, especially right now with regard to the deaths of Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo at the hands of police. Take initiative to educate yourself about anti-racism and have conversations with friends and family. Listen more than you speak. Vote for candidates who will work to actively protect everyone, not just some or those who look like you. As Governor Walz reminded the nation on Tuesday night, “equity, decency, and humanity should know no political boundary.”

 

Sadie Richardson

Notre Dame '23

Sadie is a junior at the University of Notre Dame from Minneapolis, MN studying political science and Spanish with minors in peace studies and the Hesburgh Program in Public Service. At Notre Dame, she is involved with the equestrian team, Matriculate, the Student Policy Network, and College Democrats in addition to Her Campus. In her spare time, Sadie loves watching movies, exploring new places to eat and shop, writing, debating political issues, and spending time with her family and friends. She is passionate about politics and hopes to one day practice law.
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