MINNEAPOLIS — A jury here convicted fired cop Derek Chauvin on all charges April 20 for the killing of George Floyd last May.
After two days of deliberation the jury unanimously found Chauvin guilty of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.
Hundreds of thousands of working people — Black and Caucasian — had taken to the streets in cities and small towns across the U.S. and around the world to protest Floyd’s killing. Millions more were outraged after watching a video that showed Chauvin holding Floyd, handcuffed and face down, with his knee on Floyd’s neck and then his upper shoulder, for over nine minutes. Floyd, a 46-year-old African American, was stopped and taken to the ground under suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill.
During the trial, witnesses testified that they urged Chauvin to release Floyd — pleas the cop ignored. The medical examiner testified Floyd was killed by Chauvin’s actions, while the defense claimed Floyd died not from the cop’s actions, but from a heart condition and his use of fentanyl.
Floyd’s family welcomed the verdict. They pointed out that the movement that demanded justice for George Floyd had a big impact around the country, and that helped win the trial and the jury’s decision.
It is likely Chauvin will appeal. Three other fired cops who helped Chauvin restrain Floyd face trial on charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter in August.
The day before the verdict, Democratic House Rep. Maxine Waters called for protesters to “get more confrontational” if Chauvin was not found guilty. After her threat, Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, moved the judge declare a mistrial because Waters’ remarks could affect the jurors. Judge Peter Cahill dismissed the motion, but told Nelson, “Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result on this whole trial being overturned.”
Liberal politicians, TV talk show pundits and the media had nothing but disdain for Chauvin’s constitutional rights and due process. Stand-up comic Chelsea Handler said the cop should be denied the presumption of innocence. “So pathetic that there is a trial to prove Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd when there is a video of him doing so,” she wrote March 30.
“But any attack on our rights, no matter who it’s aimed at, will be used to weaken protections that are crucial for working people, as we look for a course to build a mass social movement to meet the attacks of the capitalist rulers and their cops,” Doug Nelson, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of Minneapolis, told the Militant April 20.
A number of liberal groups held a protest at the Hennepin County Government Center April 19, calling for passage of a series of bills to reform the police.
“The fact is, if working people can reach out and organize to bring our mass social weight to bear, we can win victories against cop brutality and more,” Nelson said. “The push of liberals to ‘reform’ the police can never work. They are essential to maintaining the rule of the capitalist class. Only a deep-going social revolution — like took place in Cuba in 1959 — can uproot cop violence and racist attacks once and for all.”
Less than an hour before Chauvin’s conviction, a so-far unidentified cop in Columbus, Ohio, shot dead 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, who was holding a knife. Protests have spread in Chicago after cop Eric Stillman shot dead 13-year-old Adam Toledo March 29.
Since the initial demonstrations against Floyd’s killing swept the country last May, looting, violence and race baiting organized by antifa and some Black Lives Matter leaders became common at some anti-police brutality actions. Their anti-working-class course repelled many working people who wanted to join actions and make their voices heard against the killing of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others. Protests dwindled.
More than 3,000 National Guard soldiers, along with cops and sheriffs deputies, were ordered to downtown Minneapolis prior to the verdict and hundreds of stores were boarded up.
Protests hit cop killing of Wright
As the trial was taking place, Kim Potter, a cop in nearby Brooklyn Center, shot dead Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black motorist, after the cops stopped him for an out-of-date registration sticker April 11. Potter, who has been fired and faces charges of second-degree manslaughter, says she mistook her gun for a Taser.
Wright’s family urged people to respond without violence and organized some substantial protests. But some of the actions against Wright’s killing have been marked by looting and violence. However, one group that recognizes the destructive effects of this dangerous anti-working-class mayhem, who call themselves the Minnesota Freedom Fighters, went to the protests to try and stop it. This is a welcome development.
The prevalence of cop brutality and the broader assaults the crisis of capitalism brings down on workers and farmers ensures discussion about how to defend our interests and organize a mass movement against cop brutality that can make gains will continue.