What about this news again?
On May 25, 2020, white policeman Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on the neck of black American George Floyd in the American city of Minnesota for almost 9 minutes. George Floyd, who was suspected of paying with a counterfeit banknote, died. It was filmed by several people begging to let go of George Floyd. He called out several times that he couldn‘t breathe. Through social media, people all over the world saw the videos.
And so there were protests all over the world against racism and police brutality. They’re known as the Black Lives Matter protests. A jury of 12 people had to decide if Derek Chauvin is guilty of George Floyd‘s death. That had to be unanimous, so all 12 had to agree. And that happened.
A judge has yet to decide what Chauvin’s sentence will be, but he‘s going to jail for a maximum of 40 years. In various places in America, people started partying when they heard the news, a lot of people cried, and George Floyd’s lawyer said, “Let‘s dwell on this historic moment, not just for George Floyd, but for the whole of America.”
Why is it a historic moment?
“ It almost never happens that a policeman is convicted,” says American citizen Kenneth Manusama. Every year, more than 1,000 Americans die from police brutality. The American organization ‘Mapping Police Violence‘ has been investigating this.
The probability of a black man dying after he comes into contact with the police is three times as high as a white man. Also, black victims of police brutality are much more often unarmed than white men. Only 1% of the cops who used lethal force get a lawsuit. Even less will be punished. Since 2005, there are only 44.
The police in the United States are well protected by laws. It’s usually enough when a cop in a lawsuit says he felt threatened. Many black Americans therefore had little confidence in advance that the jury would designate Derek Chauvin as guilty. But it happened anyway.
According to various media, this is because of a few important things: there was a video showing the event up close, and police officers said during the trial that Derek Chauvin had used too much force. Usually police officers protect the defendant. “But it is also due to the pressure of the media, and some even say by politicians,” says Manusama. “The whole world watched.” For example, Joe Biden and Barack Obama said that they were happy with the conviction.
According to Manusama, it is also a historical victory for the feeling of black Americans. “With cameras on phones, we always saw that black people are being mistreated and murdered by police. But they never got convicted. And now finally it is. And also for manslaughter, it won‘t be put away as an accident. It gives black Americans confidence that they are protected in their right and cannot just be killed. And that’s why it‘s historic.”
According to Mannusama, it’s not ready now. “Discrimination is still deep. The black community is still lagging behind: they are much poorer, live in worse neighborhoods with worse schools, and it is harder to buy a house. It is difficult to get out of this and that is why there is still no equality.”
But there are changes. President Joe Biden is going to have the police investigated in Minneapolis to see if anything else has happened. He also wants to enact a new law. It‘s named after George Floyd. The law is going to ban police strangling and make it easier to prosecute police officers. He’s already been through the House of Commons, but still has to pass through the Senate. That‘s some kind of American First Chamber that has to pass laws.
According to Mannusama, the law will probably get through it. “It’s a start to change the police, where racism is deeply involved. If police officers can be more easily convicted, they will also be more careful.” The law will therefore, in particular, protect black Americans better from the police.