NEWS COMMENTARY DIGESTS THE JUSTICE VERDICT FOR GEORGE FLOYD, THE AFRICAN AMERICAN MAN WHOSE DEATH SPARKED GLOBAL PROTESTS ON RACISM AND INJUSTICE, MATTERS ARISING AND LESSONS THEREIN FOR GHANA.
Derek Chauvin was found guilty of all three charges for killing George Floyd. The news came through like a thunderbolt. It interfaced and connected people around the world, just as George Floyd’s killing sparked global protests on racism and injustice. The former Minneapolis Police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes last year was found guilty on Tuesday, April 20, of all three charges against him in one of the most consequential trials of the Black Lives Matter era. Derek Chauvin, 45, was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The jurors deliberated for more than 10 hours over two days before coming to their decision.
Wearing a mask inside the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Chauvin had no apparent reaction to the guilty verdict. His bail was revoked and he was placed in handcuffs and removed from the court through a side door. He was taken to a facility in Stillwater, Minnesota, about 25 miles east of downtown Minneapolis, according to Officials. Even as his sentencing is yet to be pronounced, we are told Chauvin could spend decades behind bars. That is what Americans and Civil rights activists around the world see as justice for George Floyd. But, as Chauvin was being led away with a stunned motionless look on his face, one wonders what were his thoughts? Could he have just been a little more cautious? maybe he may not have landed behind bars. Even though what is being termed as justice will not bring back the dead George Floyd, for Americans, it gives an opportunity to address lingering issues of racism, hate and systemic injustice.
After the verdict was pronounced, there was a lot of jubilation as groups who gathered to discuss the outcome hugged and made merry. There was also a lot of barbecue celebration amidst fireworks. Indeed, this depicts a sense of contentment and maybe satisfaction, but many believe a lot more work remains undone. America has for decades grappled with the menace of racism and systemic injustice, especially police brutality of people of colour. Even though gone are the days of segregation, and the Jim Crow laws, many civil rights activists such as Rev. Al Sharpton continue to be vociferous about racism. So, we can conclude that they have the political will to deal with the problem, can we say same for Ghana?
Tackling the issues proactively must serve as a lesson for Ghana. The Police here have on several occasions come under criticism for not discharging their duties professionally. It is up to the powers that be to ensure this is fixed. However, we cannot put aside the issue of resourcing. The police in Ghana must be well equipped to enable them to do their work more effectively. It is time most of our systems are digitised so that access to information will come readily for the necessary actions to be taken.
In the Floyd case, evidence was key. ABC News Legal Analyst Sunny Hostin, called the video “the star witness for the prosecution”. The cell phone video recorded by American teenager Darnella Frazier, a bystander and trial witness we understand was the strongest piece of evidence ever seen in a case against a police officer. The video showed the Police Officer, Dereck Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes causing him to say, “I Can’t Breathe’’.
Ghana also needs to reconsider its witness protection scheme, so that many ordinary citizens will be willing to volunteer information to the police without fear of being victimised. Our justice system may also have to consider introducing sequestration, where the jurors are isolated from all outside influences and interferences, and also avoid a situation where a person is tried in the court of public opinion before, a verdict is given.
Having gotten Justice for the Floyd Family, President Joe Biden has called on Americans to use this golden opportunity to unite and fight against racism and systemic injustices in the US. This may not be the last time that a policeman and a civilian may be involved in such an altercation, but this time and season can serve for us in Ghana a pointer and call to action to identify with America, and the entire Floyd family by taking the necessary steps to address injustices in our lives.
BY REBECCA EKPE, A JOURNALIST.