St. Louis Activists Hopeful, But Bracing For Verdict In Derek Chauvin’s Trial
Activists from the St. Louis area hope a Minneapolis jury will find former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of the murder of George Floyd last spring.
But community leaders say emotions are high in St. Louis and across the country because juries often acquit white officers accused of killing blacks.
The jury’s deliberations began Monday after the defense and prosecutors presented their final arguments in the seventh week of Chauvin’s trial. St. Louis activists said they were prepared for the verdict.
Chauvin is charged with accidental second degree murder, third degree murder, and second degree manslaughter.
Civil rights activists say if the jury finds Chauvin not guilty, widespread protests could result, much like last summer after video footage showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes. They could be worse, said Rev. Darryl Gray, who led or participated in dozens of peace protests over the past year.
“If people thought that the fundamental wave of activism behind George Floyd’s death was there – this intersectionality of generations, races and cultures – if people thought that was massive, they didn’t see anything,” Gray said.
A guilty verdict would send the message that police officers are not above the law, said John Bowman, St. Louis County NAACP president.
“I think it is a clear shot through voting in the police unions that you will no longer be able to take these typical defense arguments and go wrong,” he said.
Video footage of Chauvin’s actions in May, which shocked the nation, could help convince the jury to find Chauvin guilty. But that doesn’t mean the judicial system will suddenly hold all cops accountable for such deaths, said Emanuel Powell, an attorney for Arch City Defenders.
“Even if found guilty, the extent, length of these criminal proceedings, the amount of evidence presented, the nature of the testimony presented, is what it takes to find it [Chauvin] guilty of suicide and we know that so often doesn’t happen to the average person on the street, ”Powell said.
If Chauvin is found not guilty, it would be another indication that police officers will not be held accountable for their actions.
“Let’s not forget Eric Gardner, for example,” Powell said, noting that a New York police officer who had put Garner in a stranglehold was not charged when he died in 2015. “These stories are cyclical, they come every few years, a terrible story about what the police did. The criminal justice system allows these things. I think we see it as extreme on this case, but there are so many cases of police violence. “
After Floyd’s death, people across the country protested to decipher what had happened to him and Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by a Louisville police officer.
For the St. Louisans, her death was a stark reminder of similar deaths in St. Louis. Protesters took to the streets four years ago after former St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley was convicted of non-first degree murder in the 2011 shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith.
“Go back to Stockley’s acquittal and how peaceful protesters weren’t met with the police on the sidelines, they’re in riot gear, pepper spray, we saw that in St. Louis,” Powell said. “I’m worried that this will or could happen.”
St. Louis activists say they are determined to stop the police brutality whatever the Minneapolis jury decides.
Activists will continue to work to hold police accountable, said LadyAshley Gregory, Forward Through Ferguson’s director of community partnerships.
“When we saw that this is a system that tries to project itself whether Chauvin was found guilty or innocent, we saw what we saw and that work continues,” said Gregory.
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