As we go to press on the evening of 20 April, thousands of National Guard soldiers have been deployed in Minneapolis in preparation for the jury’s verdict in the trial of police officer Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd – and large numbers in major cities across the US.
The police and the National Guard are on the back foot, but protesters may well face repression, particularly if expressing outrage at an acquittal or semi-acquittal. In a country where police killings have run at a hundred a month since Floyd’s death, it is not to be ruled out that police may kill an African American protester, setting off a further round of protest and repression.
Recent victims include 20 year old Daunte Wright, also killed in Minnesota, and 13 year old Adam Toledo in Chicago. Last Friday a cop in Portland in Oregon killed 46 year old Robert Douglas Delgado, a homeless man said to be suffering from mental distress.
It only takes one juror to prevent Chauvin being convicted on any of the three charges he faces, though with a jury unable to reach unanimity probably he would face retrial. The most serious charge, second-degree murder, requires the jury to be convinced that Chauvin committed a serious assault on Floyd. Third-degree murder requires them to find that he committed an eminently dangerous act with a reckless disregard for life; second-degree manslaughter that he was guilty of culpable negligence.
If Chauvin is found guilty of second-degree murder, he could face 40 years in prison. Sentencing guidelines suggest he might be more likely, as a first-time offender, to get 12.
It seems likely a majority of the US ruling class and political establishment want the strongest possible conviction, in order to prevent a further collapse of trust in the police. Joe Biden has called the prosecution’s evidence “overwhelming”. In an extremely unusual move, Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo has testified for the prosecution, though other police officers testified in Chauvin’s defence.
But mainstream Democratic politicians are praising the police. They have poured cold-water on proposals for serious reform of the US criminal justice system.
Solidarity with those fighting to curb the USA’s highly militarised and “law-unto-themselves” police forces! Build the same struggle here!