The news came down like a thunderbolt: an ex-cop police from Minneapolis would see the inside of a prison for killing George Floyd. Colorado leaders, especially those who live behind the bars of prejudice, exhaled.
Another white cop, another dead Black guy, and finally the justice system delivered a measure of justice.
Floyd cried out 27 times, "I can't breathe" with Derek Chauvin’s left knee pressed into his neck.
"We can finally breathe," members of the Colorado Black Legislative Caucus, said in an official joint statement. "Until now there has been virtually no precedent for a police officer to be found guilty on all charges, making this an utterly historic day."
Not every cop is Chauvin, far from it. But nearly everyone who's been disrespected, harassed or killed by law enforcement draped in white also has been accused with harsh results.
In this country we do a poor job of dividing those who belong in prison and those who need help and common respect.
The day after the verdict, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department to see if its cops use excessive force and treat people of color unfairly. The feds, not Minneapolitans, will decide how their city is policed, signaling they don't deserve that freedom.
That’s the prison Derek Chauvin built for his city.
His brothers in blue who he was supposed to be leading that day — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — are expected to stand trial in August on charges they aided and abetted their superior that day.
I assume they joined the force to serve and protect their community. They didn't protect George Floyd. Now they might have to serve their time and protect themselves.
I know Minnesotans as some of the best people in the world, and it's a place you should visit. Minnesota Nice is a real thing.
They don't deserve a day in Derek Chauvin’s prison.
Credit Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen for embracing the shrill alarm the case represents. Denver has a long, dirty history with shady cops, like too many other big cities in this country.
“I respect the judicial process and hope this verdict allows our community and nation to begin to heal," Pazen said the afternoon the verdict was announced.
He pivoted to Floyd and to better days for law enforcement.
“I believe that we have made meaningful progress in the nearly 11 months since his death, but there is more work to be done," the chief said.
In January, my friend Michael Roberts at Westword wanted to interview Pazen about the possibility of racists on Denver's force, prompted by reports that Jan. 6 insurrectionists had inside help from sympathetic U.S. Capitol cops.
Pazen could have put that question down clearly and directly: If there are, they won’t be cops much longer, he could have said.
Instead, he put out a statement.
"The Denver Police Department is made up of women and men who put on the uniform and badge every day to make a positive difference in the lives and safety of our neighbors," he stated. "We recruit and hire with a focus on diversity, and that hiring process includes extensive background checks and psychological assessments. While recognizing the importance of free speech protections, the Department also has a code of conduct and policies against bias, and should an officer act outside of those policies, they are subject to discipline."
I didn't hear a yes or no there.
Denver’s police chief was in the box Chauvin put him in.
I can’t pretend to understand what it means to be Black in America.
I read something, however, I can’t get out of my mind. It was written by Petruce Jean-Charles, a government watchdog reporter for the Asheboro Courier-Tribune in North Carolina. She is African American.
“I remembered the anxiety I felt when I went into a store looking for a specific item but couldn't find it,” she recalled. “I recall thinking I should buy this candy bar so that it doesn't look like I'm stealing or that the security guard standing at the door doesn't get the wrong idea.
“That fear I felt stemmed from earlier memories in middle school being told to leave my bag outside a stationery store, despite voicing concerns over my bag being stolen. At a young age, I understood the anger I felt when I was followed around or stared at while shopping, and how it trickled into my mind every time someone looked at me intently.”
I couldn't bear that cross without constant rage.
Black people faced Derek Chauvin’s prison their whole life.
Chauvin alone deserves his sentence. He built his prison brick by brick from at least 22 documented complaints of unnecessary or unreasonable force, including using his badge and his knee as a weapon.
Members of the Legislative Black Caucus, gathered in the Old Supreme Court Chambers, after the verdict.
Skilled orators spoke through tears, after Rep. Tony Exum Sr. of Colorado Springs said a prayer.
“We thank you for what we just witnessed, justice for Floyd family,” prayed Exum, the retired fireman and father to two sons. “Thank you for the healing that will come from this.”
Healing is freedom. Prejudice takes prisoners.