statement on the Derek Chauvin verdict: ‘This is accountability, not justice’

April 20, 2021

George Floyd should be alive today.

By Todd Paglia, Executive Director,

As I was waiting for the jury’s verdict in the murder trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, I could not get the video out of my mind of George Floyd being slowly killed on May 25th, 2020. Even more haunting to me were the words I heard on a radio interview. “Don’t look at George Floyd,” the gentleman being interviewed said. “Look right at Derek Chauvin as he murders George Floyd, and what you see is an expression of total comfort and a feeling of complete impunity.”

This was far from the first murder at the hands of police to be captured on camera, and it will not be the last. So it’s no surprise that many of us — especially Black people — were preparing to mourn once again, at accountability that never seems to come to this issue. And then the unexpected happened — a verdict that found police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all charges. For many, this evoked elation and relief. And at the same time, the sorrow continues to linger. Accountability was served, finally! But that is not the same as justice. Justice would be George Floyd alive today.   

This could have been one more example of a policeman murdering an unarmed black man, yet being acquitted. It didn’t happen this time, and that is not a matter of chance. People power worked, when our justice system so many times in the past has failed. People organized — especially young people in Minneapolis, across the U.S., and around the world — and rallied, protested, and literally put their bodies on the line in the face of immense risk. This verdict is what accountability begins to look like. But when Black bodies no longer die at the hands of trigger-happy police, only then can we comfortably say that we have arrived at real justice.

If we are truly committed to creating a healthier and safer planet for all, we must do everything in our collective power to continue disrupting the systems that perpetuate racial injustice in policing, health care, housing, pollution, and more.

Today surfaces a slew of complicated feelings, especially for Black people who have been subject to continuous government oppression since 1619. Whether you choose to use this time to celebrate, cry, rage, or rest, remember that the fight isn’t over — we have to keep showing up. And just like George Floyd, we will continue to say the names of the countless others killed at the hands of law enforcement, and continue to rally behind every person using their collective power to hold these murderers accountable.