The knee of a white man: the murder weapon the United States could not ignore


For nearly a year, black Americans have been trying to understand what differentiates Derek Chauvin.

The former Minneapolis cop is not the first to murder a black person in the line of duty. Yet he is the first whose brutality prompted a global toll of racism and now, with Tuesday guilty verdict, one of the few to be condemned for this.

The scenes of jubilation in cities like Minneapolis – and the backlash on social media – that greeted this result were as much expressions of relief as of celebration of an event that had sparked a familiar fear that justice would, once upon a time. more, refused or distributed in half portions.

George Floyd’s murder occurred at the end of the Trump era when racist passions in the United States were being fueled in flames for political ends. The country had also been in difficulty since the start of the pandemic. The deaths from Covid and the layoffs disproportionately suffered by black and brown Americans have made the burden of systemic racism much more intolerable for them.

But what also made this case unique was the murder weapon: the knee of a white man. Nobody can forget watch Chauvin lean over another human’s neck, hands in his pockets as he chatted with his fellow officers for over nine minutes as Floyd begged for his life underneath.

It was a heartbreaking image that had somehow power beyond so many other short videos of blacks shot or maimed by police, which began 30 years ago with the Los Angeles assault on Rodney King. . The scene of Floyd’s death was so appalling that 17-year-old Darnella Frazier stopped to film it.

Chauvin’s guilty verdict – and how quickly the jury returned it – will likely be remembered as a culmination of black Americans’ long battle for racial justice.

Still, that won’t quench the horror caused by the kind of graphic violence captured in Frazier’s video. Nor does it erase the memory of many other blacks killed by police, including in the 11 months between Floyd’s murder and Chauvin’s conviction.

Just during Chauvin’s three-week trial, the New York Times account 64 more Americans killed by law enforcement officers. More than half were black or Latino.

One was Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old woman killed by a police officer who said he confused his weapon with his Taser device during a traffic stop a few kilometers from the courtroom.

On the same day, Chauvin refused to testify, Chicago police released body camera footage of a 13-year-old. Adam toledo being shot in an alleyway as he turned to raise his hands, just as the officer who killed him told him to do it. Police said Toledo appeared to have a gun but threw it away.

With the paltry number of American police convicted of excessive use of force, there was a time when the odds in cases like this clearly favored authority figures with badges. But with Chauvin’s conviction, those odds may be changing.

taylor.rogers@ft.com



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