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SPAN Statement on the Derek Chauvin Verdict


Diana Autin, Executive Director

APRIL 21, 2021

It was telling over the last few weeks to watch the “blue wall” finally give way as the Chief and other members of the Minneapolis Police Department testified for the prosecution and added to the overwhelming case leading yesterday to guilty verdicts of second-degree murder, third degree murder, and manslaughter handed down to former police officer Derek Chauvin in the brutal murder of George Floyd.

But, in the context of such a long history of failure to hold police accountable for racist violence, it was still impossible to trust that Mr. Floyd’s murderer would be found guilty right up until the very moment of the verdict’s announcement. While we are relieved to witness these convictions, they represent only the smallest measure of accountability – but not justice – for George Floyd’s murder and the overwhelming threat of police violence in our country. We have much further to go as justice cannot be reached with one verdict and we must continue to work toward justice by transforming our society to end the ongoing crisis of anti-black police violence that presents a daily threat to so many of our community members – particularly community members of color with disabilities.

Far too many people of color, including people of color with disabilities, have been victims of state violence. In fact, Freddie Gray, Laquan MacDonald, Kevin Matthews, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Charleena Lyles, Sandra Bland, Quintonio LeGrier, Stephon Watts, Korryn Gaines, Natacha McKenna, Eric Smith, Daniel Prude, and most recently Adam Toledo and Daunte Wright, all had disabilities.* Fully 50% of people killed by law enforcement are disabled, and more than half of African Americans with disabilities have been arrested by the time they turn 28, a chilling fact.* And far too often, children of color, especially those with disabilities, face their first police violence in school, where so-called “School Safety Officers” bring racist and punitive policies into our educational system.

To truly address the crisis of police violence, we must pursue systemic solutions, solutions that reckon with the racist roots of policing in our country that are evident today. We must invest in approaches to community safety that provide alternatives to traditional policing, including access to community-based crisis services and other initiatives that reduce the number of police interactions. We must hold police accountable for murders, assault, harassment, and intimidation, including by ending qualified immunity, which prevents victims of violence from holding police accountable in court. We must demilitarize the police approach and use community oversight to make police accountable to the communities in which they operate.

Today, our dedicated employees, volunteers, and parent leaders – largely the parents of children with disabilities and many of them of color – share some relief with the Floyd family, but we continue to grieve. We grieve Mr. Floyd’s loss and the loss of so many other lives. But we are hopeful and we stand ready to help, as always, and to be part of a lasting solution for our children and the communities we serve – starting with bringing positive climates and positive behavioral supports into our early childhood programs and schools in place of suspension, expulsion, restraints, seclusion, and arrests.

*According to The Center for American Progress, 2/10/2021

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