New York City, and much of America, is holding its breath awaiting the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the disgraced former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd last May.
The brutal viral video which showed Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck, crushing the life from him in 8 minutes, 46 seconds, spurred a wave of protests across the country, including in our city, against police brutality and racial injustice. Most were peaceful; others resulted in grotesque violence and looting.
As the nation waits now on the unanimous verdict of 12 unknown people in Minnesota, there’s the expectation in New York and other American cities that we’ll see another round of protests, regardless of the outcome.
The concern among many is how peaceful the protesters will be.
Already, there is a sick underbelly, namely right-wingers, seemingly rooting for the worst to happen. They want people to be angry and lash out because it helps propagate a narrative of fear — which, in turn, drives up cable TV ratings and campaign cash — which, in turn, helps them win elections.
They have no problem twisting the words of a California Democratic congresswoman, Maxine Waters, into an apparent threat of violence — though these same individuals had no problem with the volatile language of their peers and their former president who helped gin up a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol in January.
The sick underbelly is looking for an excuse to scapegoat their way back to power— and those who want to protest the Chauvin verdict, regardless of the outcome, must be careful not to give it to them.
“The whole world is watching” is not just a tagline from the Oscar-nominated movie, “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” which tells the story of protesters charged in clashes with police during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. It was a statement made to the real protesters who were beaten by police and arrested.
Now, the whole world is watching again not just for the Chauvin verdict, but also for how the public responds to it. Let’s not give those yearning for violence, unrest, hatred and division the satisfaction.
Come what may, let’s respond to the verdict peacefully — and with resolve to build a more just city and country together.