Mass Protests Led to Chauvin’s Conviction. Now They’re Being Criminalized.
On Tuesday (April 20, 2021) , former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin was convicted on all charges in the brutal public lynching of George Floyd. For the Floyd family, the conviction offered some solace that the courts did not allow Floyd’s life to be taken with impunity. For many of us, however, it was a hollow “victory,” not only because prisons don’t solve our problems, but because we know police don’t either.
While the trial convicted Chauvin, as an individual, it sought to exonerate the larger system of policing, which is violent to the core. “This is not an anti-police prosecution,” the state’s attorney insisted, “it’s a pro-police prosecution.”
Chauvin was portrayed as a rogue cop out of sync with his fellow police officers. His violent behavior was portrayed as the exception, not the rule, and the system proved it was “just” by convicting him swiftly. This was the skewed narrative offered in pundit-land, while victims of racist police violence kept dying.
Police in the U.S. have killed at least 64 civilians since the trial began, with the killings of Daunte Wright, 20, and Adam Toledo, 13, and Ma’Khia Bryant, 16, being the most recent high–profile examples. George Floyd’s murder was not an isolated incident but rather a part of a larger intentional pattern of racist state violence targeting poor and working–class Black and Brown communities.
Past precedent shows there would have been no reckoning, even a limited and flawed reckoning, had there not been the massive protests that swept this country in the wake of Floyd’s murder.
Now, at the same time that the criminal legal system is congratulating itself for sending Chauvin to prison, the very protests that brought the case to national attention are being criminalized.
This week, after making the racist assertion that Minneapolis officials allowed protesters to “run wild” in the streets, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an ominous bill that seeks to essentially criminalize protest in the state of Florida, clearly targeting protests under the banner of Black Lives Matter. It is a dangerous harbinger of what may be in store for other parts of the country. Indeed, the New York Times reports that “G.O.P. lawmakers in 34 states have introduced 81 anti-protest bills during the 2021 legislative session — more than twice as many proposals as in any other year.”
The bottom line is that, while all eyes are on Minnesota, Florida House Bill 1, dubbed the “anti-riot” bill, and the other looming bills like it, have the potential to have a far greater impact on movements to combat racialized state violence than the Chauvin conviction.
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