What the Chauvin murder trial revealed about the U.S. ‘justice’ system

George Floyd

The Chauvin murder trial further exposed to the world the fragility of American democracy and the lie of American exceptionalism.

In just three weeks the trial revealed many contradictions that Black people of Minneapolis have always known existed and have always had to navigate gracefully. That if you’re Black in America, it doesn’t matter if you comply with police like Philando Castile did before being murdered, the idea of “blind justice” does not apply to you.

The contradiction of being Black in America

Nowhere in the entire trial was this contradiction exemplified greater than in the sobbing testimony of Charles McMillian, who walked a tightrope the night he witnessed Floyd’s murder.

McMillian, a 61-year-old elderly Black man, was heard on the video, at first blaming Floyd for not “complying” with police. By the end of the incident, he was so disturbed by what he witnessed that he confronted officer Chauvin while he got into the squad car.

 “He was a sizable guy. He was probably on something,” Chauvin was heard on video justifying his actions against unarmed Floyd.

The three guilty verdicts confirm what McMillan and all the other bystanders knew: that Chauvin’s actions were not justifiable. However, few African Americans believe the guilty verdicts will reconcile these contradictions.

Activist and human rights attorney Derecka Purnell tweeted: “[C]onvictions are not justice. There is no justice in the court.”

The system

Floyd’s cousin, Angela Harrelson, said that if it had not been for 17-year-old Darnella Frazier recording the incident, MPD would have covered up the murder of her cousin. Harrelson believes there wouldn’t have been a trial at all without the viral video.

For years, decades, and centuries, this fatal force by police officers and White vigilantes used against Black bodies has been sanctioned with a “wink and a nod” by the monied class, and legitimized in American courtrooms.

Despite what Black people know to be true, that Derek Chauvin was no outlier, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and the state’s prosecution successfully argued that Chauvin’s actions were an aberration and MPD does not condone them. They said policing was not on trial and MPD did not kill George Floyd. Derek Chauvin did, argued the state. And according to them, Chauvin was convicted for abandoning his duties as an officer, the trial proved the system worked.

The world is watching

On the heels of a contested 2020 election, a failed right-wing insurrection on January 6, the Chauvin murder trial further exposed to the world the fragility of American “democracy.” But this has always been America.

Since the Chauvin trial began until now Minnesota police have continued to kill people, including the high profile murder of Daunte Wright by former Brooklyn Center officer Kim Potter.

The Biden department of justice (DOJ) has launched an investigation into the MPD along with the Louisville police who murdered Breonna Taylor in her sleep. A similar investigation into MPD happened under former President Barack Obama, yet the experiences for Black people with police have not improved. Hence the murder of George Floyd.

When the DOJ investigation into MPD finishes this time, MPD will get increased funding, according to several analysts. Instead of investigating MPD and telling us what we already know, the DOJ should investigate possible crimes against humanity committed by the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County on its Black population.

For more evidence on these claims against the city and county, see the 21st Century Jim Crow in the North Star City, my ongoing investigative series with Unicorn Riot exposing the public-private partnership between Target Corp. and local government, creating Jim Crow-like conditions for Black youth experiencing homelessness in downtown Minneapolis, and beyond.

Despite the fact that Minneapolis has become demonstrably worse than it was four years ago, a clear mandate for change and despite the police and the city’s attempt to cover up the murder of George Floyd by blaming it on a “medical incident,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and 11 out of 13 councilmembers are asking to be re-elected.

Flowers for Darnella

While Hollywood elites were celebrating the Oscars on Sunday, filmmaker Michael Moore took to social media to declare Darnella Frazier’s video, “truly and unmistakably the most important film of the year.”

“It was filmed by a 17-year-old young woman under excruciating and courageous circumstances. She stood on a curb in Minneapolis, framed her camera perfectly, and held it steady as the murdering cop stared directly into her lens with the steely, frighteningly look of “YOU’RE NEXT.” But she wouldn’t stop. And because she didn’t, the whole world saw what Black America has witnessed for 400 years. And now we know this is a daily occurrence. And not just the murdering of Black people with guns or knees (lynching), but with poverty, hunger, awful schools, crap jobs, mass incarceration, no health care—a daily killing of body and spirit and hope. Thank you Darnella Frazier for your gift, for creating a moment of justice.”

Marjaan Sirdar is a freelance writer in South Minneapolis’ Bryant neighborhood, He is the host of the People Power Podcast.