Guilty Verdicts do not Transform Oppressive Policing Structures
By Tessa Diphoorn, Brianne McGonigle Leyh, and Luuk Slooter
Photographers: Chris Henry, Olayinka Babalola, Gayatri Malhotra, Liliane Lathan & Norbu Gyachung
Overwhelming relief, optimism, and justice prevailed in Minneapolis, USA on 20 April 2021 when Derek Chauvin was found guilty for the murder of George Floyd. Two months later, on 25 June, he was sentenced to 22 ½ years in prison for his crimes, 7 ½ years less than asked for by the prosecution. The footage of the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police and his tragic last words “I can’t breathe” went viral across the globe. It triggered (non)violent protests across the United States and spread to cities around the world. The guilty verdict of Chauvin, which was publicly praised by President Biden, has demonstrated that under exceptional circumstances, and when caught on camera, police officers can be held accountable for their actions. It is a remarkable, though minor, victory for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and all those fighting against systematic oppression on the hands of police officers. Yet amidst the joy and relief also lies scepticism and uncertainty, especially since a police shooting in Columbus, Ohio USA, resulted in the death of another victim, Ma’Khia Bryant, just moments before the verdict was read. For many it is clear that although such verdicts are pivotal in sending out a message that police abuse will not be condoned in the USA, they do not address the root causes and structures that enable the deaths of people such as George Floyd, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, Ma’Khia Bryant, and too many others. More...