On Monday, Derek Chauvin entered court in a suit and tie, starkly contrasting the violent way we first met him. Sitting next to him were his two attorneys, ready to claim that George Floyd died of a drug overdose. On the other side of the courtroom sat the prosecutors armed with a charge of second-degree murder and a slew of evidence to support their claim.
This trial should not be happening. Floyd should still be alive, home with his family, and we should not even know Chauvin's name. Nonetheless, nearly 10 months later, we are still dealing with the aftermath of what can only be described as police sanctioned execution.
This trial is a somber reminder of the America that Black people and other people of color live in, but it is also an opportunity to set a new precedent for how cases of police brutality will be handled. Chauvin must be punished according to the magnitude of his crime and police units should begin to seriously reevaluate the threat they pose to the public.
Justice for the Floyd family must be delivered by the jury and court system handling the case, but the media coverage of the trial is an important piece of the puzzle. The trial will be televised, a step that will hold the actors in the courtroom accountable.
While there are plenty of media sources covering the trial from The New York Times to the New York Post, the opportunity to watch the trial yourself is invaluable. You can even view the court documents themselves using the Minnesota government website.
The media outlets covering this trial have a huge responsibility to both deliver unbiased reporting and be very careful not to sympathize with a former police officer who is emblematic of all the abuses that have been historically swept under the rug.
This trial is without a doubt, a political one. What this means is that it has political overtones and will have political effects. The way that the media chooses to portray the defendant, victim and events of the trial will have a lasting effect on our collective understanding of the way police brutality cases are handled.
For students, most media coverage of the trial will come in the form of social media posts made by fellow young people and organizations dedicated to covering the event. These posts help raise awareness about important facets of this complicated and painful subject, but it is important to do more than just reshare a post.
Make sure to follow the information to the source, take time to learn about racism in the justice system in depth, and keep an eye on the legislation that should be reacting to a decades-old crisis.
New Jersey’s own legislation is outdated. A police officer’s disciplinary records in New Jersey are currently concealed, something which hinders the transparency of police departments and trust citizens can place in them.
The New Jersey General Assembly and Senate are, with public support, trying to pass a bill that would change this, but government institutions are notoriously slow-moving. You can learn more about that legislation by going to the New Jersey Legislature website and searching for "A5301."
Media coverage, police reforms and legislation are key components of the solution to police brutality, but the fact remains that 12 jurors still have to vote at the end of this particular trial. Despite the brutal video that we all watched this past May and the protests it sparked, the likelihood of a punishment that fits the crime is slim.
The Floyd family needs and deserves justice, and perhaps this case is the turning point, not just for Minneapolis but for the country as a whole.
Unfortunately, it would be idealistic to believe that one trial can undo decades of damage and police abuses. The work of civil rights activists has been passed down from parent to child for generations and is a burden that will not be put down any time soon.
It may become lighter with the 21st century. Cameras have given us access to the scene of the crime, cameras in the courtroom have given us access to the justice system’s reaction and social media has allowed us to educate ourselves and our peers.
The changes that have to happen are widespread and will not happen overnight. You cannot allow your attention to shift away from the epidemic of police brutality just because the cure takes too long or because this particular trial comes to an end.
Pay attention to who you are voting for and educate yourself on the ways racism is ingrained in our society. Speak out against injustices you witness and actively work to hold the system that is supposed to keep our community safe accountable.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 153rd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.