Maxine Waters, Donald Trump.
Maxine Waters, Tribune News Service
The journey to this moment has been painful and so very difficult. Derek Chauvin’s killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis was a shocking and disturbing experience for so many people. On video, Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as he took his last breaths.
Many of those who joined in the sustained protests last summer did so for the first time because of what happened to George Floyd and were motivated by their newfound understanding of the pain Black people endure in this country.
Moments after learning of the jury’s historic decision though, we learned that police in Columbus, Ohio, had shot and killed yet another Black person: 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant. Justice is not easy, and we know that because of our collective suffering through the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Daunte Wright and so many more.
I know that because I have been an activist participating in the civil rights movement and I have dealt with the issue of police abuse for many decades.
I’m sure there are many in the Los Angeles area that can remember my confrontations with Daryl Gates who, at the time, was the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. I challenged Gates on his department’s use of the chokehold that killed far too many. I challenged Gates on his department’s use of the battering ram and, of course, I challenged him on the brutal police beating of Rodney King.
It is clear that I am not new to protest and I am not new to challenge and confrontation.
Over this past year, our young people have shown the world the level of dedication that is required to achieve even the smallest of triumphs, and the courage and tenacity they’ve displayed despite the setbacks has inspired me. I travelled to Minnesota to be with other members of Congress, civil rights leaders and other local officials to give support to the families affected by police violence, and to stand in solidarity with the young people protesting — many of whom are understandably traumatized by the killings that are taking place at the hands of police officers in this country.
Now, because of who I am, the right wing and members of Congress who subscribe to the views of groups like QAnon, the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys and the KKK have targeted me. Those very people have done so to divert attention from the fact that they aided and abetted a violent, domestic terrorist insurrection led by Donald Trump.
To target me and say that I was violent or encouraging violence is a blatant distortion of the truth. I am nonviolent.
In a 1993 essay, ahead of the verdict in the federal civil rights trial of the officers who brutally beat Rodney King, I wrote to our community and I implored our young people to be responsible. I implored them to be about life and not about death. I cautioned them that we may not get justice and that if that were to be the case, we still must not endanger our lives or the lives of others.
The fact of the matter is that Chauvin was found guilty of murder, not because of any one person’s opinion, but because the prosecution put on a great case and implored the jury to believe their own eyes.
I am hopeful that police chiefs will take more responsibility and I am hopeful that city councils and mayors who oversee police budgets will understand that they can no longer let their fear of police unions and losing elections stop them from moving us toward a better future.
I am hopeful that the police killings of Black people can be stopped.
This is my solemn wish, and this is my prayer.
George Floyd's death sparked nationwide protests demanding a reckoning with institutional racism that have sometimes resulted in clashes with police, but many officers took a less aggressive stance over the weekend when demonstrations were overwhelmingly peaceful.
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