As jurors deliberated last Monday over the trial of Derek Chauvin, America prepared for either a new wave of protests against police brutality or a collective sigh of relief. On Tuesday, the jury reached the unanimous conclusion that Chauvin was guilty on all counts, which included second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. Official sentencing is reserved for eight weeks from the verdict, and many are hoping for harsher punishment than the current Minnesota state recommendations of 12.5 years per murder charge and four years per manslaughter charge.
After hearing the news, crowds gathered in the honorary George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, reacting with tears of joy and even fireworks, but a sense of injustice still weighed heavy on many minds. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, the prosecution against Chauvin, said that the outcome of the trial wasn’t “justice … because justice implies true restoration. But it is accountability, which is the first step toward justice.”
Despite the hope the verdict gave to many Americans, there were already at least six police killings within just 24 hours after the trial concluded. Out of the six cases, the most publicized killings have been those of Andrew Brown Jr., and 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant. The FBI has confirmed that they are opening a civil rights probe in the case of Brown, who was shot five times as he fled from officers in his car. Bryant was shot four times as she lunged at another girl with a knife.
These cases have only added to the movement of social justice and police reform started by the killing of George Floyd earlier last year. As the trial and sentencing of Chauvin drew to a close last week, many feel a sense of deja vu as they yet again face the momentous task of bringing more officers to face accountability and justice. Consuelo Grier, Bellevue College’s Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, said that while she was happy about the outcome of the trial, she still felt “deeply unsatisfied.” Going on, she said that she felt “angry … Angry at the fact that none of us believed that it was actually going to be a guilty verdict.”
Despite current events feeling like a repetitive cycle, Grier hopes that the department of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) can make serious steps towards promoting social justice on the Bellevue College campus. A new social justice center will be opening on campus soon, and Grier says that the focus will be on “education components, and not just workshops, but how … we think about embedding restorative practices across our campus.” One of the most important things she hopes the new center will do is give students “opportunities to learn … about different people, and about how social justice principles can enhance the lives of so many different people and what your role is in advancing that.”
These efforts are a positive step towards racial reconciliation within the community, but for Consuelo and many other Americans, the end of the injustice seems far away. “For many people, the [Chauvin] verdict signaled accountability … but accountability isn’t justice, and I think many people want justice, and so this is not enough. It’s not enough to have had the whole world on fire in order to get one guilty verdict … I don’t think that this verdict alone signals to law enforcement that they need to make a major systemic change, and that’s what we need, we need a major systemic change.”
The DEI department would love to hear input from the student body about the programs and resources offered at the social justice center and can be contacted with suggestions or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.