Yesterday’s verdict was a rare moment of police accountability. Our hearts go out to George Floyd’s family. We mourn as his community mourns and as they look to find some degree of solace in this verdict. The jury sent a clear message that police are not above the law. It is an indictment of the system of policing that allowed Chauvin to murder an unarmed and defenseless man in broad daylight before witnesses.
This is a time of national reckoning. Our Unitarian Universalist faith demands that we speak George Floyd’s name in remembrance of his life and recognize every Black person who has been harassed, assaulted, or murdered by police. We pray this moment opens the door to a new era in this country, one in which there are always real consequences for police violence and misconduct.
We must work in solidarity with the Black leaders and organizers who have long been fighting for accountability and justice. America is grappling with the reality that our system of policing cannot be truly reformed. We need a fundamental divestment of police spending and a re-investment in our communities and a shared vision of safety. The time is now; the time of piecemeal and ineffective reforms must end.
Policing in this country remains deeply broken. When lives like George Floyd’s are stolen, there can be no justice through the legal system—accountability is only the first action towards systemic change. This verdict does not end institutional racism or the long history of lethal over-policing. At its origin, our nation’s policing was designed to hunt down enslaved people who were running towards freedom and organizing to resist. We need a different system of public safety—one that recognizes the humanity of all people at its foundation.
Like so many law enforcement officers before him, Derek Chauvin thought that—without consequence—he could keep his knee on the neck of a prone man who was begging for his life. We acknowledge and honor the twelve Minneapolis citizens who proved him wrong. Chauvin’s murder conviction is an unmistakable message that the people will not tolerate the police abuse and killing of Black people with impunity.
America’s system of policing is designed to preserve itself at all costs. This unusual breach of the “blue wall of silence” only underlines how invested the system is in portraying this as a case of “bad apples,” a specious attempt to divert attention from the rottenness of the entire institution of policing. The culture of law enforcement is so fundamentally dysfunctional that even under intense global scrutiny, police cannot refrain from enacting violence against Black, brown, and Indigenous people.
During the Chauvin trial, we witnessed several more police assaults and murders of Black people across the country. In close proximity, these assaults included twenty-year-old Daunte Wright, who was shot and killed after being pulled over for having air fresheners hanging from his rearview mirror. And as the jury was returning to the courtroom, police in Columbus, Ohio, shot and killed a 15-year-old Black girl.
The natural response to this unceasing assault on Black lives is righteous anger and profound grief. Yet, as protesters nationally continue to demonstrate against police violence, they will likely be met with all too familiar state-sanctioned violence and militarization. The UUA unequivocally supports the right of the people to gather in protest without being subjected to repression and violence.
Our Unitarian Universalist faith compels us to join all those who are striving to establish true structures of safety, stability, and freedom for all people. Our tradition’s Principles—including our belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every human being—move us to work together to build the anti-oppressive world we imagine where everyone can be safe and everyone can thrive.
Further Exploration and Action
- Unitarian Universalists have been speaking powerfully about abolition and real structures of safety for a long time. Read the UU theological grounding for this work via the UUA Statement, “Stop Calling the Police and Start Eradicating Anti-Blackness”
- 2020 General Assembly Action of Immediate Witness, “Amen to Uprising: A Commitment and a Call to Action (PDF 2 pages)”
- Understand the racist origins of our current policing system by watching “Unfinished Business: A Study of DuBois’ Reconstruction in America to Now,” presented by Side With Love and Love Resists
- Take action in support of the BREATHE Act, or other local legislation that divests from violent systems of policing and invests in real structures of accountability, safety, and support.