On April 21, America held its collective breath. When the news broke that the jury in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin had arrived at a verdict, the fate of the nation’s cities was hanging in the balance. As the boarded-up storefronts in urban areas and suburbs from coast to coast showed, there was little doubt that if a Minneapolis jury didn’t produce the verdicts many people wanted, riots would ensue.
When Judge Peter Cahill read the verdicts, the nation heaved a sigh of relief. The conviction on all three counts against the former Minneapolis police officer — second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree murder — for the death of George Floyd, means Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison. But more was at stake in the trial than just his future.
The widespread outrage generated by the appalling nine-minute video that depicted Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck set off a summer of “mostly peaceful” protests orchestrated by the Black Lives Matter movement. The BLM movement and advocates of critical race theory about “white privilege” used Floyd’s death at the hands of a white cop to justify their assertions that not only was there an epidemic of police shootings of black men but that America was guilty of institutional racism.
The demonstrations they orchestrated in response to the case transformed Floyd into a martyr for civil rights. Millions attended demonstrations in the weeks and months that followed. Hundreds of these “mostly peaceful” protests around the country turned into riots in which neighborhoods were burned. Stores were looted, resulting in casualties and deaths involving law enforcement personnel and civilians.
Democrats Keep the Anger Churning
Worries about more riots should Chauvin be acquitted were not theoretical. Threats from activists and politicians demanding a conviction had created an atmosphere in which anything less than a guilty verdict would have been used as an excuse for more rioting.
President Joe Biden said he was praying for “the right verdict.” Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., told demonstrators to “get more confrontational” with police if the Chauvin jurors didn’t give them what they demanded. Not long after, some protesters committed a drive-by shooting of National Guardsmen in the area to protect against riots. Indeed, Waters was chided by Judge Cahill for having given the Chauvin defense possible grounds for appeal although he denied a motion for a mistrial.
But thanks to the Chauvin jury, that nightmare was not repeated on the evening of April 21. There had been some justified fears that riots might occur even if the former cop was convicted. But as it turned out, the reaction to the verdict was one of general jubilation. Celebrations, rather than angry demonstrations, were held around the country.
Biden weighed in with rhetoric about the trial being a “reckoning” and a “wake-up call” for the nation. Vice President Kamala Harris also claimed what happened to Floyd, who died after being arrested for passing a counterfeit bill at a convenience store, epitomized the truth about widespread racial injustice in the United States.
Despite nonstop claims that the United States is an irredeemably racist society, the feeling that the system had worked to punish someone who had committed an egregious act produced happiness, not more anger. While those intent on keeping the anger churning, like former President Barack Obama and various BLM activists, sought to dispel any idea that the verdict should inspire confidence in American justice rather than serve as a reason for more protests, it was hard for even the most determined race-baiter to dispel the good feelings the verdict produced.
For those living in neighborhoods that were torched or looted last summer — like many in Minneapolis — there were expressions of relief about the threat of violence and unrest having been averted. But the fact that violence wasn’t the result this time,shouldn’t inspire confidence that last summer’s riots were a one-off that won’t be repeated.
Police shootings, however justified they might have been, in Atlanta and Kenosha, Wisconsin also provoked riots last summer. And only a week before a jury convicted Chauvin in Minneapolis, a police shooting of Duante Wright led to the violence which Waters had helped cheer on.
The Chauvin verdict was not the first time in the last year riots had been forestalled, not by cooler heads prevailing, but because those who might have rioted had gotten what they wanted. That was true last November when the same storefronts were boarded up throughout the country in anticipation of violence had Donald Trump won the presidential election.
Riots Are the New Norm
We now know that any time the BLM movement can highlight a case that they think proves their point about racism, whether accurate or not, riots will follow. As the aftermath of the presidential race proved, the same may be true of the outcomes of elections.
In Minneapolis, the possibility of riots had hung over the trial from the beginning. Indeed, the agitation for Chauvin’s conviction — regardless of how heartrending the dismal spectacle that unfolded in the videotape of Floyd’s death might have been — resembled the way Jim Crow racists intimidated juries into acquitting those accused of killing blacks.
The events of the past year have proven that in post-George Floyd America, political violence over anything that can be claimed to prove racism is something to be expected, rather than a shocking occurrence. Indeed, it’s those instances where riots don’t follow, like the Chauvin trial outcome, that are the outliers.
Democrats are content to excuse or rationalize riots when they occur, as happened throughout last summer when the mainstream media tried to claim they were “mostly peaceful.” They are actively opposing efforts, like the law passed by Florida to increase the penalties for rioting while still preserving the right to peacefully protest.
Protests are a justified reaction to the way most of those who engaged in the BLM violence either weren’t charged or got off lightly after being bailed out by funds supported by Biden and Harris. The fact that the same people rationalizing BLM riots are still demonizing the pro-Trump mob that took part in the Capitol riot and demanding that they be convicted on serious charges think left-wing rioters should get a pass illustrates their hypocrisy and lack of principle.
While Americans were pleased to avoid another round of riots over Floyd’s death, it’s obvious that riots or the threat of them, are now a permanent feature of American life. Going forward, anytime an incident that can be framed, either fairly or not as racist, or a trial produces an unpopular verdict, or the left loses power, riots are likely.
Even if Chauvin deserved to be convicted, no one should be happy about the way the trial confirmed again that we are now living in a country where political violence is no longer considered beyond the pale.