The Guardian (Charlottetown)
Justice is served
When justice gets served, no one riots.
When there’s accountability for police brutality, the overwhelming reaction is one of relief, not rage.
Authorities in Minnesota reportedly assembled the largest security presence in the state’s history, including police and National Guard troops, in anticipation of fallout from the verdicts in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. They were not needed.
When the mixed-race, mixed-gender jury came back late Tuesday afternoon after 10 hours of deliberation, they found Chauvin guilty on all counts — second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — in the May 25, 2020 killing of George Floyd.
Chauvin is to be sentenced in June. Depending on the judge, he faces anywhere from 12.5 to 75 years’ incarceration.
Despite Floyd being handcuffed, prone on the ground and pleading he could not breathe, Chauvin kept his knee on the Black man’s neck for more than nine minutes, suffocating Floyd after he had been arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit bill.
That cold, callous act by the white police officer touched off global Black Lives Matter demonstrations protesting police brutality against people of colour, and systemic racism.
That included many marches and demonstrations in our region.
On Tuesday, Floyd’s family — and millions watching worldwide — finally saw justice done.
But that one set of verdicts, no matter how welcome, are but a small, though hopeful, beginning.
As countless advocates for lasting equality pointed out, along with U.S. President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and many other politicians on both sides of the border, much more remains to be done in the struggle for reform and an end to systemic racism.
A number of politicians in the Atlantic region, and some police officials, have acknowledged systemic racism has long been a problem here, too.
Last fall, then Nova Scotia premier Stephen McNeil issued a formal apology for racism within the province’s justice system and gave a broadly based committee 18 months to make recommendations on needed changes to public safety and justice in Nova Scotia.
Along with justice for George Floyd, the Chauvin verdicts send another important message.
In order to protect society, police officers are given extraordinary powers, far beyond those of average citizens. They legally carry weapons of deadly force. They have the authority to detain and temporarily incarcerate people, pending adjudication by the justice system. They have the right, following approved policies, to use physical force when necessary to gain compliance.
But with immense privilege comes immense responsibility. The public expects police to not abuse those powers or treat people inequitably.
As those in the Black and other minority communities know all too well, that has too often not been the case.
The understandable result has been distrust of both police and the justice system.
As reaction to the Chauvin verdict — mostly calm, joyful celebration, not violence — shows, people simply want equality and justice.