By Jonathan S. Tobin, The Federalist
On April 21, America held its collective breath. When the news broke that the jury in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin had arrived at a verdict, the fate of the nation’s cities was hanging in the balance. As the boarded-up storefronts in urban areas and suburbs from coast to coast showed, there was little doubt that if a Minneapolis jury didn’t produce the verdicts many people wanted, riots would ensue.
When Judge Peter Cahill read the verdicts, the nation heaved a sigh of relief. The conviction on all three counts against the former Minneapolis police officer — second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree murder — for the death of George Floyd, means Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison. But more was at stake in the trial than just his future.
The widespread outrage generated by the appalling nine-minute video that depicted Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck set off a summer of “mostly peaceful” protests orchestrated by the Black Lives Matter movement. The BLM movement and advocates of critical race theory about “white privilege” used Floyd’s death at the hands of a white cop to justify their assertions that not only was there an epidemic of police shootings of black men but that America was guilty of institutional racism.
The demonstrations they orchestrated in response to the case transformed Floyd into a martyr for civil rights. Millions attended demonstrations in the weeks and months that followed. Hundreds of these “mostly peaceful” protests around the country turned into riots in which neighborhoods were burned. Stores were looted, resulting in casualties and deaths involving law enforcement personnel and civilians.
Democrats Keep the Anger Churning
Worries about more riots should Chauvin be acquitted were not theoretical. Threats from activists and politicians demanding a conviction had created an atmosphere in which anything less than a guilty verdict would have been used as an excuse for more rioting.
President Joe Biden said he was praying for “the right verdict.” Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., told demonstrators to “get more confrontational” with police if the Chauvin jurors didn’t give them what they demanded. Not long after, some protesters committed a drive-by shooting of National Guardsmen in the area to protect against riots. Indeed, Waters was chided by Judge Cahill for having given the Chauvin defense possible grounds for appeal although he denied a motion for a mistrial.
But thanks to the Chauvin jury, that nightmare was not repeated on the evening of April 21. There had been some justified fears that riots might occur even if the former cop was convicted. But as it turned out, the reaction to the verdict was one of general jubilation. Celebrations, rather than angry demonstrations, were held around the country.
Biden weighed in with rhetoric about the trial being a “reckoning” and a “wake-up call” for the nation. Vice President Kamala Harris also claimed what happened to Floyd, who died after being arrested for passing a counterfeit bill at a convenience store, epitomized the truth about widespread racial injustice in the United States.
Despite nonstop claims that the United States is an irredeemably racist society, the feeling that the system had worked to punish someone who had committed an egregious act produced happiness, not more anger. While those intent on keeping the anger churning, like former President Barack Obama and various BLM activists, sought to dispel any idea that the verdict should inspire confidence in American justice rather than serve as a reason for more protests, it was hard for even the most determined race-baiter to dispel the good feelings the verdict produced.
For those living in neighborhoods that were torched or looted last summer — like many in Minneapolis — there were expressions of relief about the threat of violence and unrest having been averted. But the fact that violence wasn’t the result this time, shouldn’t inspire confidence that last summer’s riots were a one-off that won’t be repeated.
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