Anti-racism campaigners call for action against UK police following George Floyd trial verdict
Anti-racism campaigners are calling for action to charge rogue police officers in Britain, following news of the verdict in the high-profile George Floyd trial in the United States.
Campaigners from Stand Up To Racism have welcomed the guilty verdict for all three charges against Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, but have also claimed similar charges haven’t been brought against police officers in the UK in comparable cases of police brutality due to an establishment denial of “institutional racism”.
Former Minneapolis police officer Chauvin was yesterday charged with Floyd’s murder after kneeling on 46-year-old Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes, with fatal consequences.
Chauvin and several other police officers arrested George Floyd last May after a convenience store employee called 911 and told the police that Mr. Floyd had bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill.
Seventeen minutes after the first squad car arrived at the scene, Mr. Floyd was unconscious and pinned beneath three police officers, showing no signs of life; an incident which was captured on camera and spread around the world, generating international anger and protests calling for justice.
The day after Mr. Floyd’s death, the Minneapolis Police Department fired all four of the officers involved in the episode.
Following a lengthy and gripping trial this year, it took less than a day of deliberation for jurors to find Derek Chauvin guilty of all charges over George Floyd’s death. The jury returned guilty verdicts of second degree murder, third degree murder and manslaughter.
In response to the verdict, US President Joe Biden addressed the nation, saying racism is a “stain on the nation’s soul” while Barack and Michelle Obama warned “true justice” is more than one trial.
Chauvin had been on bail, but this was revoked when he was found guilty. It will reportedly take another eight weeks before Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill sentences Chauvin, allowing time for the court to consider the options.
The minimum sentence in Minnesota is 12.5 years for the most serious charge, according to news agency Reuters, but the three counts all have varying maximum sentences.
Tou Thao, J Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane were the other officers involved with Floyd’s arrest and are all facing trial for with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Currently free on bail, their trial is scheduled for 23 August.
UK social justice organisation Stand up to Racism stressed that the verdict would not have been possible without the Black Lives Matter movement.
In a statement following recent developments, the organisation pointed “to the dangers of measures in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that curb the right to protest”.
Sabby Dhalu from Stand up to Racism said: “We welcome the guilty verdict. Police racism is not unique to the US. The fact that no police officer in Britain has ever been charged, let alone convicted, for deaths of Black people in police custody is a product of institutional racism.
“We need action to eradicate institutional racism. This verdict would not have been possible without the Black Lives Matter movement. It shows the power of protest and the importance of opposing the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.”
The criticism comes in response to an official Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) report last month which suggested the UK “no longer” had a system rigged against minorities, implying it was not institutionally racist.
A government spokesman defended the Commission, saying Prime Minister Boris Johnson was “grateful” for its work.
However, the report was criticised by human rights experts, who claimed it could “fuel racism”. The United Nations working group on people of African descent said the report was “an attempt to normalise white supremacy”.
In a statement to the House of Commons yesterday, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Equalities Kemi Badenoch defended the findings of the controversial but campaigners argue that achieving justice in Britain requires rejecting the CRED report.
Weyman Bennett, Stand up to Racism co-convenor, said:
“This verdict comes hours after the British government defended its internationally criticised CRED report.
“After examining policing, health, education and employment, the report concluded that it found no evidence of institutional racism. This flies in the face of all evidence.”
“Contrary to Kemi Badenoch’s earlier statement to the House of Commons, this is denying the existence of institutional racism. Achieving such justice in Britain means rejecting this report.”