Derek Chauvin’s conviction this week was a long-sought outcome for Black Lives Matter activists and local organizers who have been seeking justice for the murder of George Floyd for nearly a year.
But as human rights activists cheered Tuesday as the judge read the Minnesota jury verdict – guilty on two counts of murder and one of manslaughter – their celebrations were halted. News broke that Ohio police shot and killed Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old black girl from Ohio who authorities said accused two people with a knife.
Bryant died the same day as the Chauvin verdict, and a day before waking up for Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old black man who was shot dead by police earlier this month in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, miles from the courthouse where Chauvin was tried.
“It’s a slap in the face but at the same time not surprising,” said Trahern Crews, a community organizer and leader of Black Lives Matter Minnesota. “It just makes you realize that we can’t rest.”
The sentiment of the crews is shared by many activists who have called for justice for George Floyd: although they welcomed the jury’s verdict in the Chauvin case, they say there is still work to be done at the levels federal, state and local to address it. police violence and other racial justice issues.
“The fight for accountability and justice in America is far from over,” said Rashad Robinson, President of Color of Change. “The Chauvin trial may be over, but what follows will be the defining moment in our history. We need to do more than make our voices heard; we must demand action now. “
For now, all eyes are on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are working to strike a bipartisan deal on Federation of Legsilation at police reform this would crack down on practices such as no-strike warrants and strangulations, and limit the immunity from legal liability of individual officers.
A bill in Floyd’s name has been passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, but will need the support of at least 10 Republicans in the Senate if it is to be sent to President Joe Biden’s office for it. sign the law.
Progressives say that the bill’s serious consideration is a testament to the efforts of activists who galvanized voters to pressure their elected officials.
“We wouldn’t be in a time when we’re even talking about the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act without grassroots efforts, without Black Lives Matter, without all the people who took to the streets last summer,” said Tré Easton, a former Senate Clerk working with the progressive Battle Born Collective.
“I don’t think you can separate the base and the activists from this moment in any way,” he added. “We wouldn’t be here without them.”
Analysts attribute much of BLM’s success to its loose organizational structure. Rather than having a strict hierarchy with a national leader, the movement has been relatively diffuse, with local organizers such as Crews pushing for changes in their own communities.
In Los Angeles, for example, BLM activists were instrumental in the campaign for candidate George Gascón, a former police chief bent on criminal justice reform who beat the incumbent district attorney last November.
Andra Gillespie, professor of political science at Emory University and specialist in African American politics, said the grassroots approach can be very effective when it comes to lobbying for police and other reforms of criminal justice, since state and local authorities are in charge. of the police in America.
“It’s something that Congress adopts [federal] legislation, ”she said. “But at the end of the day, policing is a local issue, where there is state oversight.
At the same time, Black Lives Matter activists say they intend to take their fight far beyond the police, to include economic issues such as reparations to black Americans for slavery, in the months to come.
Last week, the House Judiciary Committee voted to withdraw HR 40 – a bill that would create a commission to study reparations and report to Congress on the role of the US government in slavery and deprivation of black Americans’ right to vote – out of committee for the first time. This opens up the possibility of a wider debate in the House, even if the chances of passing the Senate are low.
“This is the start of an era that will bring many new changes, especially with the narrowing of the racial wealth gap,” Crews said. “I don’t think HR 40 would have come out of the Judiciary Committee like he did if some of these things weren’t happening on the ground.”
The BLM and other grassroots activists say their cause in Washington has been supported by a growing number of young, progressive black Democratic lawmakers, such as Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Nikema Williams of Georgia, who have held positions at the House left behind by the death of 80 years. -Age John lewis, a famous civil rights leader.
But analysts said the protests in the 11 months following Floyd’s death also rallied black activists across generations. These include more centrist African-American lawmakers on Capitol Hill, such as Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, who previously distanced himself from the more left-wing factions of the Democratic Party.
“It’s a problem for many African Americans across the generations,” Gillespie said. “There have been disagreements over the past few years over tactics. . . but there is room for there to be an intergenerational coalition here, in part because there is this shared sense of bound fate.