Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin’s trial for the killing of George Floyd last May opened on 8 March. Even after last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, and with all the attention focused on the police, the number of killings they commit has remained very high. According to mappingpoliceviolence.org, 1,127 people were killed by US police in 2020. In the first two and half months of 2021, the figure was 207.
Chauvin faces charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — but has pleaded not guilty to all. Three other police officers will face separate trials.
Already a diverse range of witnesses have described their horror at seeing what was done to Floyd. Firefighter and paramedic Genevieve Hansen testified how she repeatedly requested, argued with and begged the police to let her assist Floyd, but they refused, despite the fact she identified herself and her job.
Left-wing Minneapolis congresswoman Ilhan Omar has commented: “It’s been really horrendous to watch the defence put George Floyd on trial instead of the former police officer who’s charged with his murder.”
Chauvin’s defence lawyer has attempted to use the presence of drugs in Floyd’s system to exonerate his client. What such a “defence” actually proves is the viciousness of police brutality towards people, particularly black people, suffering from drug and mental health problems. (One demand made by BLM protesters is for a chunk of police budgets to be spent on putting social workers alongside police.)
CNN commentator Van Jones has been widely quoted saying that an acquittal for Chauvin “will be perceived as open season, telling police officers from coast to coast you can literally get away with murder in broad daylight”. That’s obviously right.
Jones says: “The system is on trial”. It seems likely a majority of the US ruling class and political establishment will want Chauvin to be convicted, in order to prevent a further collapse of trust in the police. In an extremely unusual move, Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo has testified for the prosecution.
The eviction of Trump and other radical right-wingers who defend the likes of Chauvin is a relief. But the right remains strong and with popular support; and the Democratic leadership is not serious about challenging the US’s brutal and racist police and criminal justice systems.
Solidarity with sisters and brothers in the US fighting to seriously challenge the police and the interests and ideologies they defend, and to change society!