Today Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison for the murder of George Floyd. This sentence demonstrates that under some circumstances, police can be held accountable for the violence they inflict on Black individuals and Black communities. It is significant for the indication that at least—and at last—such accountability might be possible. We know that this possibility has only been reached through generations of organizing and struggle, including the Black Lives Matter mass movements of the last several years. And we know that accountability is not an end to the lives lost and communities harmed by police violence. No sentence will fill the void left in George Floyd’s family and community, or in thousands of other families and communities
While the sentence marks a small but significant shift toward justice, it is not in itself a just outcome. Left intact are the systems of over-policing, widespread police violence, over-sentencing, and presumptive criminalization that help to prop up the systemic racism with which American society must reckon. Bay Area Legal Aid takes today’s events as a reminder that change is possible thanks to struggles and sacrifices for the liberation of Black communities, but that the change we have seen to date is too small, too late to arrive, and too fragile and impermanent. We stand in solidarity with those individuals, communities and organizations who continue to fight for deep, lasting change, and whose vision of a social order built on Black liberation and the end of white supremacy animates our own work as an organization and as individual advocates.