April 5, 2021 | revcom.us
The first week of testimony in Derek Chauvin’s trial—for the brutal murder of George Floyd—has been emotionally wrenching and infuriating. Although the prosecution has framed the case from the beginning as being about a few cops who “violated their oath” or “did not follow the training,” the case unfolding is painting a devastating picture of police terror and its toll.
This has been a picture of the lived—and daily living—reality of tens of millions of Black and other oppressed masses, the reality that propelled a much larger section of society defiantly out into the streets during the Beautiful Rising last summer with eyes further opened on “systemic racism”—and concentrated in the trial.
The humanity of George Floyd—and the masses, including in witness testimonials—comes across in stark contrast to the inhumanity and the absolute depraved and unapologetic cruelty of Derek Chauvin, and the pigs on site. The jury—and millions of people following the trial—have seen excruciatingly painful video of the 9 minutes, 29 seconds during which Chauvin’s knee bore down on George Floyd’s neck as he lay on his stomach, his hands cuffed behind his back, gasping for air, pleading for his life, and then passing into unconsciousness and death, without any letup in the torture being inflicted.
We heard from nine witnesses on the scene—ranging from a 9-year-old girl to a 61-year-old man—describing how it felt to see this horror unfold before their very eyes, and to try desperately to prevent it, only to be stopped by what one girl called “a higher power”—cops with guns, mace and legal authority behind them. (See “March 31, 2021 Trial Opens with Devastating Portrayals of Cold-Blooded Murder.”) These witnesses are still traumatized almost a year later.
We heard from the paramedics who were finally able to get Chauvin off of Floyd’s dead body describe their heroic but unsuccessful efforts to revive him, to give “a human … a second chance at life.”
And we heard the heartrending testimony of Courteney Ross, describing her sweet, kind boyfriend, full of love and full of life in spite of health problems including opioid addiction.
Through all of this, the horror of this crime and the brutality of the cops stood out in sharp contrast to the humanity of George Floyd and these people.
But that is not all.
We heard from witnesses who had pleaded with Derek Chauvin and his fellow pigs to let up. These included a mixed martial arts fighter with experience in chokeholds (who had expertise about what kinds of chokeholds were life-threatening); a white fire-fighter EMT (with experience in what people look like when their lives are being extinguished); as well as an older Black man, two teenagers, and a young child, who pleaded with Chauvin and his fellow pigs to let up.
In short, millions of people around the world who were viewing this trial, or parts of it, saw the heartlessness of the pigs—callous, heartless cruelty that Black and other oppressed people confront every hour of every day.
People heard something else: the ways in which different witnesses invoked their feelings that what happened to George Floyd could have happened to any Black person—such as the Black teenager who said it could have been her father or her uncle, or the white firefighter/EMT saying that she stayed on the scene because she was worried that after George Floyd was killed, the remaining cops would begin attacking other Black men in the crowd who were protesting Floyd’s murder.
People came face to face with the fact that Derek Chauvin took George Floyd’s life over a trifle—a counterfeit $20 bill—that the clerk in the store didn’t even want to initially report. Just as Michael Brown lost his life for a packet of cigarillos, Eric Garner for selling loose cigarettes on a corner, Trayvon Martin for wearing a hoodie and “looking suspicious” in the eyes of a racist, Amadou Diallo for holding a wallet, 12-year-old boy Tamir Rice for playing with a toy gun… and on and on.
Finally, this trial also has been showing something else unusual. Cops turning on and testifying against their fellow cops. Almost always, even in murders as foul as this one, cops group together and cover for their fellow pig. The “blue wall of silence”—the ways in which police cover for each other when accused of brutalizing or killing a civilian, especially a Black or oppressed nationality person of color—is infamous. Yet here, several police veterans have testified against Chauvin, and this week the police chief of Minneapolis is slated to appear for the prosecution.
The millions who watched this testimony—and everyone SHOULD watch this testimony—saw a huge part of the reality of America in a way in which it has never before been shown in a U.S. court of law. Generally and historically, because of the systemic role of the police in this white supremacist society, prosecutors in such cases “forget how to prosecute” or even act like defense attorneys. Almost never do they portray the full brutality of the police, nor bring out the humanity of their victims especially when Black and Latino, and they certainly don’t have high level cops testifying against the cops on trial, including as is slated, the current police chief of Minneapolis—piercing the infamous “blue wall of silence.”
So why is this happening here?
First and most fundamentally, because last summer, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, coming on top of other murders by the police and white-supremacists around the same time, people rose up powerfully, and demonstrated in the streets day after day in the Beautiful Rising, here and around the world.
Bob Avakian wrote at the time of the millions who “have drawn inspiration from this righteous uprising…. who have had the blinders forced from their eyes and have been provoked to think anew about what kind of country it is that we live in.” He continued:
This has raised the biggest questions about what is needed for people everywhere to live fully as human beings:
AN END TO INSTITUTIONALIZED RACISM
AND MURDER BY POLICE—NOTHING LESS!
AN END TO ANY WAY PEOPLE ANYWHERE ARE
USED, ABUSED, AND BRUTALIZED—NOTHING LESS!
This system has no answers for those questions and these demands. In that light, BA pointed out that “We Need: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!” and, with millions having suddenly flooded into the streets, ended the Statement with “Look around you—what seemed impossible yesterday is happening right now! Revolution, why should we settle for anything less?”
In short, this uprising raised profound questions about the fundamental character of this system. If Chauvin is not convicted, there is real concern among at least a section of the ruling class that this could further and even qualitatively erode the allegiance and belief of millions in the legitimacy of those who rule this country.
High Stakes for Those Running This System
Second and related, the depraved murder of George Floyd happened in a city and state controlled by the Democratic Party. The Democrats view their social base, in part, as people who have been historically oppressed—Black people, Latinos, women, LGBTQ people, the poor, and others. Part of their function has been to contain these masses within the terms and horizons of this system, stoking their belief that you can work for change in America and some day arrive at a “more perfect” union in which the horrors of white supremacy and patriarchy have been overcome… even as every passing year brings further attacks on these masses, and even as now America has produced a full-blown fascist menace determined to thrust these groups into a far more oppressed, far more subjugated state.
In addition, the eyes of the world are on this trial. The U.S. boasts of being the “land of the free,” with “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” as inalienable founding rights; the murder of George Floyd, watched by hundreds of millions around the world, called these patently false claims into serious question. A “not guilty” verdict would reveal those boasts to be an utter fraud. It is not for nothing that when the U.S. Secretary of State Blinken attacked China for human rights violations, the Chinese shot back about the murder of Black people by the police.
Finally, the ideals professed by the liberal capitalist-imperialists stand in stark contrast to and are challenged by the fascists, as represented by Trump and the Republican-Nazis, out there “promoting their grotesque white supremacist portrayal of the masses of Black people as ‘criminals’ and ‘un-caged animals’,”1 especially in response to “righteous protests and rebellion,” like the beautiful rising of last summer.
All this is part of why this trial has been so unusual.
The Biggest Stakes of All—For the Masses of Humanity
The biggest stakes though are with the oppressed and those who stand with them. A not guilty verdict will puff up the fascists, the police and their backers. Such a verdict puts society’s stamp of approval on yet another horrible and utterly unjustified murder of a Black human being… and this time after tens of millions, here and all over the world, said NO as loudly as they could, suffering arrest and in some cases giving their lives for this cause.
Any such verdict must be answered with thunderous protest and even more profound questioning of this system, with increasing rejection of the legitimacy of this system.
But despite the overwhelming evidence, the conviction of Derek Chauvin is far from assured.
First, not only must the prosecution get all 12 jurors to find Chauvin guilty beyond reasonable doubt, but it must overcome the systemic biases towards pigs in such cases. This is both how the law is written—for instance, if a cop says he feels in danger, use of deadly force can be “justified”—and in terms of how the masses—including some in the jury—are conditioned by this system to see the role of the police.
Second, the judge has made rulings that allow negative instances of George Floyd’s past to be used in the court, while keeping out the voluminous evidence of past civilian complaints against Chauvin of brutality. As a crucial aspect of their defense, Chauvin’s lawyers are likely to seize on Floyd’s addiction, preexisting health conditions and past behavior as rationalization for his death. They are very likely to argue (see “Likely Arguments by Chauvin’s Lawyers” on this page) that his death was caused by drugs interacting with these preexisting health conditions. The defense has laid the basis for such specious claims by asking that circumstances of Floyd’s previous arrest be entered into the trial. The defense will likely use this to resort to slander against and demonization of George Floyd that will undermine the humanization we, and the jury, have witnessed this past week.
So, again, nobody knows how this will turn out. We have said that people need to stay vigilant, and have “their voices heard during this trial, in diverse, creative and bold ways, from the pulpits and from the stage, on media and in the streets.”
Right now, we need to be spreading the word about the stakes and the course of this crucial trial—through this website, through social media, through the YouTube show Revolution—Nothing Less, and through materials like this poster. If you are new to this website or the movement for revolution, you need to be checking out Bob Avakian and learning more about the solution to all this—beginning with his many works on the oppression of Black people, how this can only be overcome by revolution, and how that revolution relates to the emancipation of all of humanity. We will continue our coverage on all media platforms.
Stay tuned—the verdict of this trial matters, the stakes are high!
1. See the New Year’s Statement from Bob Avakian, The New Year, The Urgent Need For A Radically New World—For The Emancipation Of All Humanity [back].