On the Conviction of Derek Chauvin: What We Mean When We Demand Justice

Nearly a year ago, we wrote a statement following the brutal murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, titled “Justice for George Floyd.” Today, the world contemplates what “justice” means once more with the guilty verdict of his murderer, Derek Chauvin. 

Before we discuss Chauvin’s conviction, we want to celebrate and honor George Floyd’s life. Floyd was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina and grew up in Houston, Texas. “He would always make sure that we had our clothes for school. He made sure that we all were going to be in school on time,” recalled his brother, Philonise Floyd. “He just was like a person that everybody loved around the community. He just knew how to make people feel better.” He was known affectionately as a gentle giant and aptly called “Big Floyd” by his peers, towering at 6 feet 6 inches. He was a skilled basketball and football player. He was a loving father to his six-year-old daughter, Gianna.  

This afternoon, Chauvin was found guilty for second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. We rarely— if ever — have a verdict confirming that a police officer has committed murder. Along with George Floyd’s family and loved ones, millions across the country are celebrating this historic verdict, and rightly so. 

However, we know that the conviction of a single police officer will not end police violence. Since 2005, there have been less than 42 convictions of police officers who have killed our community members. At the same time, over 1,000 people are killed by police each year. Even since the trial began on March 29, more than three people per day have been murdered by law enforcement

We cannot dismiss George Floyd and thousands of others’ murders as isolated incidents or the result of poor decision making made by individual police officers. Their deaths are the direct consequence of a law enforcement apparatus that continues to be used as a weapon of white supremacy — and our response and calls for justice must reflect this. 

True justice calls for an end to racist policing. True justice demands access to safety and joy for Black, brown, and indigenous communities. True justice insists that we imagine a world where George Floyd would be enjoying an afternoon with his daughter Gianna. As much as we wish that this verdict could bring about justice for George Floyd and Black people in America, it does not. 

But we do know that the movement that sprung to honor his life and from the centuries of Black leadership demanding justice for Black people continues to grow, and we are hopeful and zealously committed to offering our labor and love to racial justice — both in this moment and beyond. The fight is a long one, and we are dedicated to doing everything in our power to end racist, anti-Black policing in the years and decades to come.

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As one of the oldest civil rights institutions on the West Coast, our goal at Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCRSF) is to dismantle systems of oppression and racism, and to build an equitable and just society. Formed in 1968 to bridge the legal community and the Civil Rights Movement, we’re known for advancing the rights of people of color, immigrants, refugees and low income individuals. 

NOTE: In this moment, LCCRSF is following the lead of local POC-led organizations and identifying where and how we can be most effective here in the Bay Area. We are urgently gathering resources and information. Please check back frequently, or follow us on Twitter for the latest. We work with community partners and encourage you to support these Bay Area organizations: