For days, Nekima Levy Armstrong has gotten up early and joined activists to protest in entrance of the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis.
Like many Black Americans, she is nervous about what’s taking place contained in the concrete and glass constructing, the place jury choice is underway to find out the destiny of Derek Chauvin. The former police officer is charged with killing George Floyd, who died after Chauvin pinned Floyd’s neck by the knee for greater than 9 minutes whereas onlookers begged the officer to cease and Floyd cried out for his mom.
The ensuing video sparked a summer of protests and a nationwide reckoning on race. Although Levy Armstrong says she hopes for a conviction, she acknowledges that verdict will not ease her considerations about systemic racism in policing, which has resulted in a disproportionate variety of Black males, girls and kids being killed by legislation enforcement.
“People are feeling a mix of anticipation and anxiety,” mentioned Levy Armstrong, a civil rights legal professional and founding father of town’s grassroots Racial Justice Network. “We have not really seen white male officers held accountable for killing black people in our state, so there are a lot of firsts and unknown factors. But I know convictions will not change the system. That will take diligence and time and a more rigorous approach to justice.”
After a 12 months of nationwide Black Lives Matter protests sparked by Floyd’s loss of life and a pandemic that left many individuals of colour unemployed, sick or lifeless, the wall-to-wall media protection of Chauvin’strial is poised to reopen wounds that have not healed for a lot of Black Americans.
At the identical time, many white Americans appear to have moved on from the emotions of introspection and solidarity that emerged within the weeks after Floyd, 46, died.
A USA TODAY/Ipsos poll revealed final week discovered belief within the Black Lives Matter motion has dropped to 50% from 60% final June, whereas 36% of Americans described Floyd’s loss of life as a homicide in contrast with 60% who mentioned the identical final summer season. Those saying legislation and order was paramount even when it meant limiting peaceable protests grew in previous months from 45% to 49%.
According to the USA TODAY/Ipsos ballot, Black Americans are more and more pessimistic concerning the progress of racial justice. The ballot signifies that 54%of Black Americans mentioned race relations have worsened prior to now 12 months in contrast with 40% of white respondents. There can be a telling hole alongside racial traces in how Americans view Floyd’s loss of life alongside racial traces: 28% of white Americans referred to as it homicide in contrast with 64% of Black Americans.
“This trial is politically important, but psychologically Black America is so numb from the turnstile of incidents of white cops killing Black people that even a conviction here will have a minimal impact,” mentioned James Taylor, professor of politics on the University of San Francisco and creator of “Black Nationalism in the United States: From Malcolm X to Barack Obama.”
Taylor mentioned the state of race relations within the United States is just like the violence and divisions of the post-Civil War South.
“This is the worst it’s ever been in this country outside of Jim Crow,” he mentioned. “The real crime of right now is that Democrats aren’t fighting for Black people in the same way that (Donald) Trump fought for his people.”
Taylor pointed to recent incidents where officers were not charged in the death of Black civilians, such as the decision last month not to prosecute the Rochester, New York, officers who a year ago placed a mesh hood over the head of Daniel Prude, 41, who then lost consciousness and died.
Prude was having a psychotic episode, but activists saw in the incident the same example of force that was used in the death of Floyd, who was placed under arrest for allegedlytrying to pass off a fake $20 bill and wound up gasping for air under Chauvin’s knee.
Research shows that systemic racism continues to amount to a psychological and physiological “Black tax” for many Black Americans as a result of near-daily discrimination and prejudice, no matter how high their socio-economic status, according to a study this week from the Fielding School of Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Black men in particular “face constant experiences of discrimination and disappointment when they try to contribute,” Vicky Mays, the study’s co-senior author, said in a statement. “They are treated like criminals in a society where they often are not allowed to achieve their full potential.”
Floyd video akin to JFK Zapruder film
Chauvin, 44, is charged with second-degree murder – which implies intent to kill – and manslaughter, although there still remains a possibility the case could be delayed and the charges could be lowered to third-degree murder, which is an unintentional killing.
Minneapolis officials are bracing for protests throughout the trial and have spent past weeks erecting fencing and barricades around government buildings while putting police officers and National Guard troops on standby. The city was a flashpoint in the days and weeks after Floyd’s death last spring as the images of Floyd crying “I can’t breathe” became a slogan among activists the world over.
For author and historian Douglas Brinkley, the video of Floyd’s death has become the 21st century’s Zapruder film, the grainy silent color footage shot by Abraham Zapruder on the fall day in Dallas in 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was killed.
“That video clip of Floyd is like the Zapruder film in that everyone has now seen a heinous crime committed a thousand times over,” mentioned Brinkley, who teaches historical past at Rice University in Houston. “People will tune into this trial. It’s representative of the racial divide in this country.”
The aftermath of Floyd’s death roiled the nation, an emotional boiling over after years of temperature-raising killings of Black Americans that include Philando Castile in 2016 in St. Paul, Minnesota, Oscar Grant in 2009 in Oakland, California, and Amadou Diallo in 1999 in New York, all on the heels of centuries of violence against Black Americans that spans from slavery to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and beyond.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Black protesters, often joined by Americans of all races, marched in cities in every state, while sympathetic rallies were staged around the world. The activism that emerged – focused on but not limited to the rise of the Black Lives Mattersocial justice movementnationally and in chapters around the nation – brought voters of color to the polls in record numbers and helped elect President Joe Biden.
Biden, in addition to making his running mate, Kamala Harris, the nation’s first Black and woman of color to be vice president, vowed to address systemic racism in federal housing, prisons, the White House and other branches of government. Last week, the House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would ban chokeholds and change legal protections that shield officers from prosecution.
But critics complain change has been too slow. Black activists said they plan to hold Biden to his campaign promises while keeping the pressure on state and local governments to change a system they feel is inherently biased against them.
“This trial is one of the first major ones after the summer’s uprisings, so while in the past such outcomes haven’t been in our favor, we’re now watching carefully to see if the legal system might be reforming due to pressure,” said Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and a professor of Pan-African Studies at California State University-Los Angeles.
Abdullah recalled the trial that followed the beating of Rodney King by a group of Los Angeles police officers in 1991, in which an all-white jury assembled in a courthouse in a white suburb absolved the officers of responsibility, sparking days of deadly rioting. King’s beating also was caught on videotape.
“We’re here now on the 30th anniversary of that King beating, and what the criminal justice and political system told us then was ‘Don’t believe your lying eyes,’” Abdullah said. “So, we’d love to see justice come now for George Floyd, but we’re not under any illusion. We’ll continue to push for meaningful justice reform.”
Representatives from other Black Lives Matter chapters, which often are only loosely affiliated with the national Black Lives Matter Global Network, expressed similar sentiments of mixed hopefulness for conviction in Floyd’s death while resolving to continue to push for large-scale change to the justice system.
“We’ll be keeping tabs on this case, definitely, but we’re more focused on getting rid of the systems that allow this to happen far too often,” said Marcus McDonald, founder of the Charleston Black Lives Matter chapter in South Carolina.
McDonald expressed some concern that a guilty verdict in the Floyd case might cause some to think “that we won and there’s no need to fight anymore, but the fight needs to continue.”
In California, Black Lives Matter Sacramento founder Tanya Faison said the Floyd trial is “a chance for the courts to show us we’re moving forward and can bring justice to a family that deserves it.”
But, she said, after witnessing similar deadly interactions with police in her hometown, “I’m pessimistic because I’ve seen so many times when a video is released and still the police get away with it.”
White supremacy also on trial with Chauvin, activists say
Black Lives Matter Global Network co-founder Patrisse Cullors released a statement saying that as the Floyd trial begins, “we need to understand that bigotry, white supremacy and complacency are also on trial.”
Many activists said the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by a mob of largely white supporters of then-President Donald Trump reflected the double standard that exists for Black Americans when it comes to confrontations with law enforcement.
Although five died in the Capitol riots, including one white woman who was shot by Capitol Police as she tried to break through a window, the toll was noticeably low as police were overwhelmed by the mob and, as highlighted in recent congressional hearings, lacked immediate backup from the National Guard.
“The spread of white supremacy and the events of Jan. 6 are all connected to the Floyd case,” said Derrick Johnson, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “This case can help determine what type of democracy were are going to demand and what type of country we are going to be.”
Johnson said he and other civil rights leaders will be carefully watching the procedural machinations of the Floyd trial “to make sure nothing happens that weakens the ability to hold the guilty accountable.”
Key factors include a change of venue, which proved pivotal in acquitting the officers who beat King, as well as jury selection. Last fall, a judge issued a preliminary order denying a change of venue but noted that it could be revisited “if circumstances warrant.”
Jury selection will be an equally crucial component of the trial, ensuring that those seated include representatives of Minneapolis’ Black community. The city’s dominant ethnicities are white (60%), Black (19%) and Hispanic (10%), according to the most recent census data.
In the end, the Floyd trial “is all about the outcome,” said Todd Boyd, who holds the Katherine and Frank Price Endowed Chair for the study of race and popular culture at the University of Southern California-Los Angeles.
“If there’s a conviction, in some ways that’s the bare minimum – that’s the system doing what it’s supposed to do,” Boyd said. “A conviction doesn’t mean a party.”
Along with Chauvin, three other officers who were at the scene – J. Alexander Keung, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao – have been charged with aiding and abetting. If Chauvin and the others are not found guilty, Boyd said, the nation should expect a response at least commensurate with the protests sparked by Floyd’s death.
“If it’s an acquittal, it will feel like someone is spitting in your face and humiliating you after taking this man’s life,” Boyd mentioned. “So, yes, this is a big one.”