Nationwide Protests Lead to Charges
The power of the people was heard Wednesday afternoon when Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced his office would charge all four officers involved in the slaying of black Minneapolis resident George Floyd in what will hopefully become a turning point that ushers in a new level of accountability for police departments across the nation.
With these charges, Ellison has sent a clear message that, at least in Minnesota, officers who are hired to protect and serve their communities will no longer have the right to kill their residents with impunity whenever they claim to feel threatened.
On the ninth day of demonstrations against police brutality since the Floyd killing, white police officer Derek Chauvin’s three accomplices -- Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao -- were all charged with aiding and abetting. Chauvin, the man who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, had his charges upgraded to a far more appropriate count of second-degree murder from a third-degree murder count that was essentially the equivalent of manslaughter.
This is a victory for civil disobedience and a moment of pride for every American who has peacefully protested since early last week. Without the outpouring of anger in city after city, from coast to coast, it is unlikely these charges would have ever been brought.
But make no mistake. This fight is far from over, because despite overwhelming video evidence of these men’s guilt, getting a conviction will be difficult. That’s the short-term battle. In the long-run, getting governments to enact meaningful reform will be a protracted fight that will continue at the ballot box on Nov. 3.
In Minneapolis, 58 percent of the time cops use force against its citizens, it comes against the city’s black population, according to a report in Wednesday’s New York Times. The city’s population is only 19 percent black. It doesn’t take a math genius to see there is a problem, which is why the state announced it has launched a sweeping civil-rights investigation against the department.
There is a culture in police departments of protecting your own that prevents bad officers from being exposed until it is too late. It shouldn’t take killing a man on camera to get lawmakers to wake up to the reality of problematic policing. Chauvin was the target of 18 complaints without any action being taken against him.
The arrests of these four rogue cops must be followed with convictions, or we will likely see unrest that matches or exceeds what has transpired the last nine days. That’s easier said than done. Police in this country are given an unreasonable amount of leeway to commit violence on ordinary citizens, whether they are on or off-duty.
Ellison himself conceded as much in appealing for time before announcing Wednesday’s charges. Anyone over the age of 40 will never forgot their shock and bewilderment when four Los Angeles Police Department cops were acquitted in 1992 after being caught on camera beating the daylights out of Rodney King.
It shouldn’t have to take rioters burning a police station and nine days of nationwide demonstrations to get criminal charges filed against four cops caught on camera murdering a restrained man accused of a non-violent act. Thanks to the people making their voices heard, maybe soon it won’t.
Here’s hoping future justice will be swifter.