A Week’s Long Trial and Our Public Conscience
photo: Tina Shannon
by Tina Shannon, President, PA Steel Valley Chapter, Progressive Democrats of America
I’ve been thinking about the Chauvin trial all weekend. I woke up Friday morning remembering how I felt the week Kavanaugh was confirmed, when rape was dismissed as a no-shadow-of-a-doubt concern requirement for Supreme Court Justices.
And now I’m sitting with the knowledge of what my Black friends are experiencing as they watch this trial play out, what it must be like for them to live daily with the knowledge of the violence of racist police. I’m feeling deep within myself the surrealism of everyday life going on, just like normal, right beside those facts.
Yet as painful as this trial is, I’m very happy to see it get such attention. This is the 2021 equivalency of the US public watching on tv as school children were fire hosed for protesting segregation in the 60s. This trial, with its drama and human narrative, is irresistible to the US public. It’s what we’ve been primed to expect on our tv news. It is our way to regain the attention of the public, to contest complacency culture. It’s our way around the close control of visual images by a corporate media that learned how the public can be moved by witnessing both the violence of the Jim Crow South and the death toll of the Vietnam War.
Our coalition isn’t big enough. It took a huge coalition and struggle at every point, to win the New Deal. And even then, large sectors of our population were not equally included. And during that struggle to win some of the most important legislative battles our country has ever faced, capitalism had not yet organized itself into a multi-national oligarchy with power concentrated in so few hands.
If we’re going to win what we need, this trial creates a consciousness that we should welcome. This is the way we win more people, as they see this overwhelming evidence and hear this first-person testimony sitting atop the video of Chauvin choking George Floyd to death. This is a conjuncture of emotion and logic that is extremely effective & can lever change in cultural attitudes. This trial is our bridge to the suburbs, to the places where Black Lives Matter can be questioned as perhaps a slogan too divisive, to the places where Defund the Police is not understood and even scary.
And yet I’ve seen memes questioning why we need to have a trial when we have a video. But we want trials. We want more trials. Under the rule of law, police have a proscribed role. This trial is an outcome of police violating their proscribed role. We must have a functioning civil society, so the public interest in the rule of law is an essential foundation.
Fascism reduces the role of trials. Fascism puts ever more power into the hands of police, judges, and the quasi-military forces that operate in the shadows instilling fear. We’re going to stand behind the widest airing of detail. We’re going to make the anti-democracy forces supporting police brutality make their arguments out loud beside our witness. This is an important step forward to a more secure future.