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Trying to Keep Hope Alive After the Derek Chauvin Verdict

Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

It’s easy to be optimistic if you keep your expectations low.

That’s why, after Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer with a long history of use-of-force complaints, was convicted for the murder of George Floyd, I felt less of a sense of celebration than relief.

Say what you will, our system worked after video clearly showed the victim dying with the defendant’s knee on his neck for more than eight minutes.

But the resolution of the George Floyd murder case almost was upstaged by another video-driven controversy. In Columbus, Ohio, police released bodycam video of 16-year-old Black teenager Ma’Khia Bryant being shot fatally by a white officer as she was attacking another young Black woman with a knife.

The ensuing controversy over whether the use of deadly force was justified or not — in my instant analysis, it unfortunately was — triggered memories of yet another controversial police video.

Released in Chicago less than a week earlier, it showed the shooting death of 13-year-old Adam Toledo by a Chicago police officer in a dark alley around 2:30 a.m. After the officer repeatedly shouted for Toledo to, “Show your hands!” — officers had been called to the scene to investigate a “shots fired” call — the teen displays his empty hands a fraction of a second after the officer repeatedly told him to. A gun was found later on the other side of a fence a few feet away.

 

Yet, after a year of racial reckoning in the wake of George Floyd’s death, no one should be surprised that the Toledo and Bryant tragedies touched off new rounds of angry protests and sorrowful vigils, along with calls for federal investigations of these and a staggering number of other similarly controversial cases.

I sympathize with those sentiments but also caution against jumping to conclusions, especially when our outrage is still boiling.

LaBron James illustrated the problem with premature reactions. The NBA superstar narrowly avoided Twitter jail after the death of his fellow Ohioan by taking down a tweet so angry that it sounded downright threatening.

“YOU’RE NEXT,” James tweeted with an hourglass emoji over an image of Nicholas Reardon, the officer who fired the shots. “#ACCOUNTABILITY.”

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