On April 20, after standing trial for three weeks, former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on the charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the murder of George Floyd. There was cheering, tears and sighs of relief.
Like many of its counterparts, Black Lives Matter Sudbury was formed in the wake of Floyd’s death. Naturally, its members greeted the verdict with joy. But also, the group said in a statement to Sudbury.com, relief.
“For a lot of us, it was a moment to exhale. We have been following this case quite closely, alongside millions of individuals across the globe. This was an important milestone in a long, publicized journey.
“It’s also important to note that it took 330 days to confirm what we already knew, and this is just one element that illustrates how broken the system is. We support the Floyd family and hope that this news helps them rest a little easier.”
For a verdict like this to inspire such relief, it could be said that there was widespread belief that Chauvin would not be found guilty. This is certainly the case with Black Lives Matter Sudbury.
They say that while applauding the conviction of Derek Chauvin, “it is important to recognize that it is only a display of accountability and not justice.”
“Justice would be a world where George Floyd was not murdered. Justice would be a world where in the same moment the world was granted one ounce of relief with the verdict of this trial, we were not forced, in the same breath, to mourn Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year old child in Ohio who was shot and killed by Columbus Police after calling them for help.”
To them, this is not a sign to “slow down our missions of defunding and dismantling the police.”
In light of the Chauvin Verdict, Black Lives Matter Canada released a statement on their Instagram page April 20, which the Black Lives Matter Sudbury stands behind.
“The fight for justice does not end with a guilty verdict,” BLM Canada wrote. “Justice is the abolition of oppressive, colonial, patriarchal, policing, and white supremacist systems. Justice is freedom and liberation. Defund, disarm, dismantle, and abolish the police. The Chauvin trial will be weaponized against the Black community.”
It comes down to the common saying when it comes to police who act outside the law and their allegiances to it, “One bad apple.” It is a shortening of the saying “One bad apple spoils the bunch,” and it could be said that leaving out this second part removes the necessary poison of the fruit.
“It will be said that this conviction is the consequence of ‘one bad apple’,” says Black Lives Matter Sudbury. “And the white supremacist governing systems — in the US, in Canada, and globally — will continue to enact and enable police brutality. As Trevor Noah (host of The Daily Show) said, ‘We are not dealing with bad apples, we are dealing with a rotten tree. The individualization of police brutality is yet another subset of white supremacy; it ignores the systemic nature of anti-Blackness. Until policing and the prison system are abolished in totality, there will not be justice’.”
For a group that was formed in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, one could say that it is time for the group to rest a little, knowing that even if it is just accountability, something happened to try and balance the scale. But that isn’t the case.
“It simply means that there is so much work to be done within a local, provincial, and national context,” said the group. “We are slowly moving in the right direction and it’s more important than ever to continue organizing around issues of racial inequality and police brutality.”
To them, the verdict also emphasizes the need for organizations like theirs to “create a safe space for people of colour to talk about their experiences.” Noting events like the Northern Intersectional Caucus, they state the aim is to highlight the importance of giving people of colour the opportunity to speak directly about the issues they face at a community level.
“It’s very easy to look at the George Floyd case and think, ‘that doesn’t happen in my town’,” said the group. “But systemic racism is embedded in our society, so if we want to see change happen, we have to start with ourselves, our families, and our communities.”
Jenny Lamothe is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at Sudbury.com. She covers the Black, Indigenous, immigrant and Francophone communities.
Jenny Lamothe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com