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.

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