THE death of George Floyd last May caused global shock and outrage, and led to mass protests in both the US and countries around the world. For nine minutes and 29 seconds — most of it recorded by horrified bystanders — Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, knelt on the neck of the 49-year-old black man in the process of ‘restraining’ him, watching the life drain out of Floyd despite his and witnesses’ desperate pleas, as fellow officers stood by, only letting up once physically removed by paramedics. On Tuesday, a jury found Chauvin guilty of murder. Many have expressed a sense of relief, though Minnesota’s attorney general and lead prosecutor for the case was quick to remind Americans that the verdict did not represent justice — “because justice implies true restoration” — but accountability.
More sobering words could not have been spoken at this time. Less than an hour before the Chauvin verdict was announced, police shot and killed a 16-year-old black girl in Ohio. Just days earlier, newly released video footage of the March 29 death of a 13-year-old Latino boy revealed that he had his arms raised when a Chicago cop fired on him. Meanwhile, there has been a significant uptick of mass shootings in the US in the past month, with the most high-profile of them perpetrated by men radicalised by white supremacist ideology. Yet it is historically disenfranchised, racialised communities that bear the brunt of disproportionate, often lethal, force by the police. Whether the US is willing to embark as a nation on the long road to racial justice remains to be seen. But the legacy o f racism and colonialism and its fallouts — such as impunity for police brutality affecting the most vulnerable and vilified members of society — are not uniquely American phenomena. Here at home, too, we must confront our complacent tendency to excuse abuses of power, torture and extrajudicial killings. ‘Security’ paid for with innocent blood will only perpetuate this cycle of violence.
Published in Dawn, April 23rd, 2021