Social Justice

'A giant step forward’: What next as George Floyd’s killer is found guilty

Black Lives Matter Austria, close-up picture of Convict Killer Cops sign. Image credit: Ivan Radic / Wikimedia Commons

Black Lives Matter Austria, close-up picture of Convict Killer Cops sign. Image credit: Ivan Radic / Wikimedia Commons

George Floyd wasn’t the first black man to be killed at the hands of law enforcement in America. He also wasn’t the last. Statistics show that in 2020, there were 1,021 fatal police shootings in the US. According to the database Mapping Police Violence, black people made up 28 per cent of these despite being just 13 per cent of the total population.

But Floyd’s murder by ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25 2020 sparked outcry across the United States and the world. 

As the pandemic raged, protests erupted this summer after a shocking video emerged showing Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck. Floyd repeatedly cried out: “I can’t breathe”. 

A jury found Chauvin guilty on all three charges: second and third-degree murder and manslaughter. He will be sentenced in eight weeks and faces up to 40 years in prison. A historic moment, it’s the first time a white officer has been convicted for killing a black man in the US state. 

But US campaigners and political leaders are clear. This must be the beginning of a reformed system that stops black people from dying at the hands of police in disproportionate numbers. 

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‘A giant step forward’ 

Ben Crump, a lawyer for Mr Floyd’s family, said: “America, let’s pause for a moment to proclaim this historical moment, not just for the legacy of George Floyd but for the legacy of America.

“This is a victory for those who champion humanity over inhumanity, those who champion justice over injustice.”

After speaking with the Floyd family to express his “relief” at the guilty verdict, President Joe Biden addressed the nation and called the conviction a “giant step forward”. 

“Protests unified people of every race and generation in peace and with purpose to say enough,” Biden said. 

He added: “The guilty verdict does not bring back George. George’s legacy will not be just about his death, but about what we must do in his memory.”

Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman of colour to hold the office, spoke before Biden. 

She said the administration would keep pushing to pass legislation in honour of Floyd. 

“This bill is part of George Floyd’s legacy,” she said. 

“The president and I will continue to urge the Senate to pass this legislation, not as a panacea for every problem, but as a start. This work is long overdue.”

‘No wins’

Emotional scenes played out at George Floyd Square in Minneapolis after the verdict was announced. 

Many had spoken of low expectations that justice would be served. Darnella Frazier, the teenager who recorded Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck until he died, spoke of her relief. 

She wrote on social media: “I just cried so hard. This last hour my heart was beating so fast, I was so anxious, anxiety bussing through the roof.

“George Floyd we did it!! Justice has been served.” 

But Black Lives Matter, the political organisation which inspired protests around the world since 2013 to “eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes” cautioned this wasn’t the end.

In a series of tweets, the group said: “330 days to confirm what we already knew. 330 days of reliving the trauma of George’s murder, fearing that the system would let us down again, and mourning so many more that we lost. For a murder witnessed by millions.

“This isn’t proof the system works. It’s proof of how broken it is. Because it took us this long, and this much attention. Until we have a world where our communities can thrive free from fear, there will be no justice.

“We support the Floyd family and hope this news helps them rest a little easier.”

What has the reaction been in the UK? 

In spite of a Government-commissioned report which was widely criticised for saying institutional racism doesn’t exist in the UK, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson led the reaction at home. 

He said he was “appalled” by the death of George Floyd and “welcomed” the verdict.

Leader of the opposition and former director of public prosecutions Sir Keir Starmer shared a link to a Guardian story reporting the news. His one-word tweet simply stated: justice. 

Big Issue ambassador David Lammy shared a clip of President Joe Biden speaking with the family of George Floyd.

Lammy wrote: “Real leaders don’t deny that structural racism exists when it stares them in the face. 

“They act to fix it. 

“Our Prime Minister should learn serious lessons from this President.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said his thoughts were with the loved ones of George Floyd. 

“I welcome the verdict but by itself, this won’t heal the pain of their loss, which reverberated around the world. The guilty verdict must be the beginning of real change – not the end,” he said.

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