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As we mark the sad and tragic anniversary of the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, on this May 25 the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) knows it is necessary for people to honor and commemorate this day for exposing racism in this country and public protests worldwide to make Black Lives Matter. NAME, therefore, applauds the Minneapolis jury’s guilty verdicts of Derek Chauvin in the police killing of 46-year-old Floyd. We await the sentencing of Chauvin in June and a decision in a defense motion in May for a new trial. The outcome of each will determine whether justice is possible in such police murders of unarmed Black men.  The May 25, 2020, murder of Floyd, an African American, ignited protests across the United States and many other countries over the brutal treatment Black people have suffered throughout the planet at the hands of the police

   Chauvin, 45, who is white, had been a Minneapolis police officer when he, assisted by three other officers, held his knee on Floyd’s neck for 9½ minutes. Experts in the three weeks of testimony explained that Floyd died from being held down and deprived of oxygen. Floyd had pleaded repeatedly to Chauvin, who is white, that he couldn’t breathe. Onlookers also unsuccessfully begged the police to release Floyd, who was being detained under suspicion of having passed a counterfeit $20 bill for a pack of cigarettes at a corner market. Officials, including the Minneapolis chief of police, testified that such force was not warranted in detaining Floyd, and it certainly was not worth police taking his life.

  Like many others, NAME has been disheartened by the many police killings of unarmed Black men, including Eric Garner’s death on July 17, 2014, in New York, and the fatal shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo., in which no officers faced charges in their deaths. The anniversaries of their killings have come and gone, but the anniversary of Floyd’s murder may be the one that sticks in the public’s mind, ends the brutality and makes Black lives finally matter.

   In Chauvin’s case, the jury of six whites and six Black or multiracial people in late April returned with guilty verdicts after about 10 hours of deliberations over two days. It is critical that juries in such cases reflect the demographic makeup of America. NAME agrees with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison that the verdict, though warranted, is hardly justice: “I would not call today's verdict justice, however, because justice implies true restoration. But it is accountability, which is the first step towards justice….”

   NAME remains distressed over the continued killings by police nationwide. The Associated Press reports that in the 24 hours after the verdict in Chauvin’s trial, police killed six persons in the United States, including 16-year old Ma’Khia Bryant. Accountability after the fact is simply not transformative and will not address the violent racism that continues to kill unarmed Black people and people of color.

   NAME continues to side with people who have participated in protests throughout the country calling for a change in policing. But instead of defunding the police, as some have asserted, or reforming the police, NAME instead calls for “reimagining” policing and transforming the prison industrial complex. U.S. prisons and jails have become America’s largest institutions housing adults with serious mental health and/or substance use disorders. Such transformation begins with acknowledging that policing in the U.S. began as slave patrols. Police departments must separate themselves from that history of maintaining law and order for white people at the expense of repeatedly violating the constitutional rights of Blacks and other people of color. They must instead rely on 21st century policing, which includes serving and protecting all U.S. residents. Force is warranted in only a fraction of emergency responses. Police and other first-responding public servants must instead rely on de-escalation and conflict resolution training to resolve disputes among people.

   NAME additionally knows that police must be fully engaged in the communities they serve, not alienated from them. If that means living on the blocks they patrol, walking the streets and working with neighbors and young people, then that is what officers must do. In addition, 911 first responders should include mental health and substance abuse specialists, health care workers, and conflict resolution professionals.  

   NAME demands the administration of President Joe Biden prioritize the transformation of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies changes so that justice is possible for everyone in the United States.

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