Chauvin Trial Puts the Spectacle of the Bourgeois Legal System on Display

By the Editorial Board

On Monday, March 27, the long-awaited trial for former police officer Derek Chauvin, the murderer of George Floyd, began, and with it, the ruling class seeks to distract from a key fact which no one should forget—there would be no trial to speak of if it were not for the fierce uprisings of the people of Minneapolis, which echoed around the country and the world in surging waves of justified rebellion.

The May Uprisings displayed the revolutionary potential of the people across the US, in particular early on, when the diverse and mostly poor crowds rose up to combatively clash with the hated police and set fire to their precincts and other symbols of the ruling class. The backwards bourgeois legal system’s concessions were only the result of their need to bend to this temporary threat posed by the concentrated and spontaneous rebellion, and so it sluggishly brought charges against Chauvin and his accomplices. But whether it ultimately convicts Chauvin or not, we know that the bourgeois legal system can never deliver true people’s justice for Floyd and other victims of the police.

Even when forced to charge its own armed agents, the ruling class has done all it can to push off conducting the trial, operating with little urgency and its usual bureaucracy, trying to put the summer of rebellion in the rear-view mirror. Nearly a year has passed since Chauvin used his knee to squeeze the life out of George Floyd during eight and a half agonizing minutes on the Minneapolis pavement. Through a viral video, the heinous murder reverberated around the world and sparked outrage among the people who recognized it as an undeniable image of the US ruling class’s racism against Black people and its oppression of workers and the poor.

In the initial days of the uprisings, bourgeois news continued to assert that Chauvin and the officers who aided and abetted him would likely face no charges. It is only because of the people’s outrage, materially transformed into mass rebellion and fire, that Chauvin was arrested days after murdering Floyd—the state was left with little other choice if it wanted any type of reprieve from the people’s onslaught.

Now, we will be served the spectacle of the bourgeois state’s farcical justice system. Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, is backed by a team of twelve lawyers and a $1 million defense fund generated by the Minneapolis police union. In his opening arguments, he has pushed their general strategy: blame everyone else, including Floyd himself, for Chauvin’s act of murder. Nelson pushes the idea that Floyd was on drugs and had pre-existing health issues which caused his death—not the nearly nine minutes in which Chauvin put his two hundred pounds of body weight onto Floyd’s neck.

The defense argues that the officers were threatened by the gathering crowd, which was rightly horrified and angered by the officers’ act of murder, and attribute this as part of why Chauvin and his accomplices were distracted from “doing their job.” The bourgeois system entertains these insulting arguments because of a delusional sense of its own “fairness,” and the defense plies them because they have proven to work by playing on the prejudices of jurors steeped in bourgeois ideology.

Prior to the start of the trial, jury selection in the US is yet another way that the system is stacked against the people. Someone who rightly has negative views of the police can be rejected as a juror by the defense, and others who follow the news and come to the undeniably correct conclusion that Chauvin committed murder may also be rejected, or the defense may petition the judge to remove them “for cause.” Having a correct political position is considered unwelcome in the US juror system, and whether individual jurors have good intentions or not, as a whole, juries cannot be honestly considered representative of the real views of the most oppressed. They are curated and shaped according to the ideas most agreeable to the bourgoisie, i.e. liberalism, centrism, and a misplaced faith in this backwards system and its agents.

Witnesses who express justified views are heavily scrutinized and unwelcome, as is any juror with a partisan position against the police or ruling class. Monopoly media outlet CNN called one witness, firefighter Genevieve Hansen, “combative” and said she was “responding with snark” for telling Chauvin’s lawyer, “I don’t know if you’ve ever seen someone die in front of you, but it’s very upsetting.” The judge Peter Cahill chastised Hansen for her sincere and uncontroversial statement, painting her as disruptive.

The bourgeois state extends its deepest consideration and courtesy to police officers charged with murder. In October, after a few months in jail, Chauvin was released on a $1 million bond. Upon his release, the Minnesota governor activated the national guard in fear of further uprisings, mobilizing extensive military force to defend a single murderous cop. Chauvin was eventually allowed to leave Minnesota, despite the original bond conditions that stated he should remain in the state.

In contrast, there are still numerous individuals who were arrested during the uprisings that remain in jail across the country, awaiting prosecution for trumped-up charges. Montez Lee, a Black working-class father from Minneapolis accused of arson, has been detained since the uprisings—he has only seen a judge once and was denied bail. In Arizona, Loren Reed has been in custody since June of last year, facing a potential 10-year prison sentence for making a post on Facebook about protests. He has been denied bail and deemed a flight risk. Across the US, many others are in police custody and thousands more face unresolved charges as the bourgeois state seeks to keep them in uncertainty and tied up in proceedings.

In recent years, a small number of police officers have faced charges for their crimes as the bourgeois state attempts to feign concern for the demands of the people, yet there have been minimal convictions. According to a study from Bowling Green University, since 2005, only three officers have been convicted of murder for on-duty killings. It is foolish to believe this pattern will change under this system, because this system requires its police to protect the ruling class and its property. The ruling class authorizes its police to brutalize and kill the people, because more than anything, it fears a militant working class which fights back against its daily oppression and exploitation.

Though the people inevitably rebel against the indignities of this system, all the spontaneous rebellion in the world is still not enough to achieve justice for the people. It took thousands of riots, fires, street battles, and more revolutionary violence in every corner of the world to bring one police officer to trial and place charges against his accomplices, yet how many other police and former police go free after killing or shooting Black people in incidents that are nearly as prominent as Floyd’s death? Mike Brown—no charges; Philando Castile—officer acquitted by jury; Eric Garner—grand jury declined to charge; Freddie Gray—charges dropped against three officers; Breonna Taylor—still no officers charged; Elijah McClain, Tamir Rice, Jacob Blake—no charges against police… and on and on. This is the bourgeoisie’s idea of ‘justice.’

It’s possible, in this instance, that the bourgeois state will be forced to convict Chauvin as a small concession to the people, but it has no intention of revisiting other police murders and shootings that were no less unjust than Floyd’s. Under this system, there can be no type of long-term justice for the lives destroyed by the racist, vile police agents of this imperialist state. The people need greater organization, fiercer militancy, and higher class consciousness in order to fight for the people’s justice they deserve. We require a New State, led by the working class of this country, which will begin to collect on the blood debt that the bourgeoisie’s police owe—not only to Black people, but to all workers and oppressed people. Dismantling the Old State throught socialist revolution, A new workers’ state can put these murderers on trial, to act swiftly and with prejudice against these criminals that today walk free and continue to murder with impunity.

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