MOORHEAD, Minn. — Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday, March 8, in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer charged in the death of George Floyd. Opening arguments are expected to begin March 29.
Floyd was the Black man on whose neck Chauvin kneeled for 8 minutes, 46 seconds last May. Video of the incident, with three other officers standing around watching, sparked international outrage and led to a global protest movement.
Tragically, riots and looting followed in a four-block area of south Minneapolis.
Minnesota's most important city was in the brightest spotlight.
And so it shall be again.
The whole world will be watching Minneapolis again, for better or worse.
Let's hope it's for the better.
- As Derek Chauvin stands trial in the killing of George Floyd, the world watches Minnesota
- Minnesota appeals court rules third-degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin should be reinstated
Rural conservatives and Republican state legislators probably aren't hoping for that. Given their disdain for Minneapolis and the people who live there — especially those who don't match the skin color of their white rural neighbors — they'd probably like to see the city burn.
Then they can say, "Told you so." Because owning the libs is more important than any actual accomplishments.
But this is much more serious than that.
That a cop-related death even led to charges and a trial is out of the ordinary. Historically, police officers in Minnesota were not held accountable in the death of suspects. Law enforcement's word was gospel. The first time a Minnesota police officer was charged with a crime in a suspect's death was only five years ago. Minnesota has been a state since 1858.
That jaw-dropping fact explains why Black people and other communities of color don't believe America's justice system is fair.
Without cellphone video, we'd still be in the Dark Ages. That people of color are recording their encounters with police is a good thing. It is shedding light on their interactions with police.
As University of Minnesota law professor Richard Frase pointed out in a Minnesota Public Radio story, there's no claim Chauvin killed Floyd in self-defense, a common police defense in the bad old days. Video is to thank for that.
The tone of the trial is set to be ugly. Chauvin's defense team has signaled it will blame Floyd for his death because of his drug use. It is the oldest defense tactic in the book: blame the victim. An autopsy revealed Floyd had methamphetamine and fentanyl in his blood, so the defense's argument will be that Chauvin's knee did not cause his death.
The most important thing is that justice is served.
Next is how Minneapolis and Minnesota react. The Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis, where Chauvin's trial will be held, has been fortified with fences and other barricades. The city plans to bring in thousands of police officers and National Guard soldiers to discourage violence.
As unsightly as this is, an ounce of prevention is probably worth a pound of cure.
As Minnesotans we should hope justice is delivered. We should also hope that no matter the jury's verdict, Minneapolis finds peace. The city is too important to the rest of Minnesota to wish anything different.
Readers can reach Forum News Service columnist Mike McFeely at (701) 451-5655