The guilty verdicts in Derek Chauvin’s trial were just the beginning. True justice, say Northeastern scholars, requires a sustained social movement. “As we reflect upon the guilty verdicts in George Floyd’s killing, it is clear that we have reached a rare and historical moment on the road to justice and accountability,” wrote Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern, in a message to the university community.
“Like all milestones, this one also serves as a reminder of how much further we have to travel,” he wrote. “With this in mind, we should never stop asking ourselves what we can do—as individuals, as a university community, as a society—to elevate standards of fairness, decency, and human rights.”
Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was found guilty on Tuesday of three charges related to the murder of George Floyd last May. Floyd’s death touched off protests around the world against racial injustice and police violence—a bystander video showed Chauvin, a white man, kneeling on the neck of Floyd, a Black man, for almost 10 minutes.
On Wednesday, United States Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Department of Justice would be conducting an investigation into the practices of the Minneapolis Police Department. Meanwhile, three other former Minneapolis police officers who stood by while Chauvin choked George Floyd last May are awaiting trial for their involvement in Floyd’s death, as well.
“This was a moment that affirms the humanity of Black people,” says Margaret Burnham, university distinguished professor of law at Northeastern. “The verdict restores a kind of moral balance and it also is going to inform the conversations that we are now engaged in nationally around policing: What kind of policing do we want in our country? How can we create a system where Black people are not both over-policed and under-protected, as is true of the current system?”