Derek Chauvin (Hennepin County Sheriff's Office)
Derek Chauvin (Hennepin County Sheriff's Office)

In the case of the People of the State of Minnesota v. Derek Chauvin, docket number 27-CR-20-12646, the entire nation’s attention is riveted on a courtroom at the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis for the imminent start of the trial to redress the heinous killing of George Floyd.

The jurors have been selected — six Caucasian, four African American and two multiracial, with three alternates. The intensity of emotion, anticipation and trepidation concerning the potential outcome of this trial is palpable, with the millions who protested now wondering aloud whether the anguish that motivated their demonstrations will be answered in a just verdict for the Floyd family.

Not surprisingly, there is rampant and wide-ranging speculation regarding how, or whether or not, justice will prevail in this case. Despite the unquestionable video-recorded evidence clearly showing Chauvin wantonly taking the life of Floyd, historic precedent makes clear that the officer’s punishment for the deed is not assured, according to well-informed social justice advocates nationwide.

In the mid-Atlantic region of the East Coast, seasoned civil rights and civil liberties stalwarts have weighed-in with mostly hopeful skepticism about the prospects for the People v. Chauvin.

Following is a sampling of well-informed opinions from a cross-section of longtime freedom fighters representing diverse constituencies that comprise those most at-risk to have police violence perpetrated against them.

These voices represent an eclectic range of insights from authoritative people and organizations covering race, ethnicity, religion, politics and LGBTQ, from New York City to Richmond. Their commonality is racial equity, social justice and genuine police reform for George Floyd and for the nation.

In New York City, the Center for Constitutional Rights, founded in 1966 by renowned late civil rights attorney/activist William Kunstler, is a preeminent advocacy organization for international social justice. Kunstler represented the Chicago 7, the Black Panther Party and the Attica Prison rioters.

Vince Warren, the Center’s executive director, suggests, “this is a test of whether it’s even possible for our system of accountability to operate differently than it has for 100 years. Based upon our history, I see no reason to expect a conviction.”

As a precursor to the possibility of an acquittal or conviction on the lesser of charges, Warren points out that the offer of a range of penalties is a prosecution gimmick in anticipation that any conviction would result in the lightest verdict.

In Newark, New Jersey, the People’s Organization for Progress has a longstanding reputation for doing due diligence on behalf of the city’s residents in the fight for racial justice. Founded in 2000 by lifelong community activist and people-first political operative Lawrence Hamm, the organization has earned a solid reputation for leading on racial and social equity.

Hamm, a recent challenger to Cory Booker for U.S. senator, was a 17-year-old appointee to the Newark Board of Education by Ken Gibson, the nation’s first African American big-city mayor, and mentee of the late activist/poet Amiri Baraka.

“The word on the street is Chauvin should have been charged with first-degree murder,” Hamm said. “If premeditation is the prerequisite, Chauvin had almost nine minutes to think about killing a man who was begging for his life.”

Also in Newark, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice has weighed in. Ryan Haygood, president and CEO, is very frank in his assessment regarding Chauvin: “Thousands upon thousands took to the streets this past year to protest not only police violence against Black bodies, but structural violence meted out through systemic racism every day in America.”

In the City of Brotherly Love, longtime activist and rights advocate Pam Africa, chairwoman of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, says Philadelphia is not feeling the love where justice for George Floyd is concerned.

Ms. Africa successfully got the death penalty commuted for Mumia Abu-Jamal, twice, in 2001 and the final adjudication in 2011. Her take on the Chauvin proceedings: “The charge should have included first-degree murder. The officer’s action was the definition of premeditated.”

In Baltimore, 97-year-old Greater Baltimore Urban League is locally known as much for activism as for advocacy. The chapter, under the leadership of current President/CEO Tiffany Majors, has a demonstrated track record for out front action on issues of race that threaten Baltimoreans.

On the Chauvin trial, she insists that “we explicitly believe [Chauvin] should have been charged with first-degree murder. The offender had nine minutes to consider if his actions were warranted or would cause harm to Mr. Floyd.”

Although Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, a Baltimore resident and widow of late Rep. Elijah Cummings, shares her opinion on behalf of Washington, D.C., residents as the founder, president and CEO of D.C.-based Global Policy Solutions, LLC.

Her take: “Unfortunately, Americans have short memories. When African Americans experience unjust and heinous deaths at the hands of police officers, there is public outrage, promises of systemic change, and then not much happens.”

Down the road, in Richmond, Virginia, more strong opinions prevail about the ramifications and possible outcomes of the Chauvin murder case. Diversity Richmond is a social justice organization emphasizing LGBTQ advocacy.

Speaking to what’s at stake in the Chauvin trial, Luise “Cheezi” Farmer, Diversity Richmond’s board chairman,  opined, “I do feel Chauvin should be charged with first-degree murder. But, myself like others time after time, trial after trial, have seen white police officers not held accountable for killings of Black folks.”

Farmer’s Richmond colleague, Lacette “Rev. L” Cross, is a community faith leader, activist and motivational speaker. She is also the pastor of Restoration Fellowship RVA, co-founder/director of UGRC/Black Pride RVA and founder/CEO of Will You Be Whole.

Rev. L gets right to the point: “On its face, what should be at stake is justice being served. That a man will be held accountable for killing another man. But justice is not what will happen. This is America. I anticipate Chauvin to be declared innocent. All historical evidence, with minor outliers, point to this reality.”

The East Coast consensus: Derek Chauvin should have been charged with first-degree murder in the killing of George Floyd and is likely to skate justice.

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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