Chicago Activists Are Closely Watching Chauvin Trial, And Say The Outcome Could Spark Mass Protests

George Floyd Officer Trial
In this image from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, and former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin listen as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides over pre-trial motions prior to opening statements, Monday March 29. Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd Officer Trial
In this image from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, and former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin listen as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides over pre-trial motions prior to opening statements, Monday March 29. Court TV via AP, Pool

Chicago Activists Are Closely Watching Chauvin Trial, And Say The Outcome Could Spark Mass Protests

Chicago activists say they are closely following the murder trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, and are expecting mass demonstrations whenever the case is decided, regardless of the outcome.

Chauvin’s trial started in earnest with opening arguments on Monday, 10 months after the officer was videotaped kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes until Floyd stopped breathing. In court on Tuesday, a teenage witness told jurors that Floyd “looked kind of purple” and “was really limp” by the time an ambulance arrived on the scene.

Floyd’s death sparked mass protests followed by civil unrest in Chicago and other cities throughout the country.

The killing’s central role in last summer’s racial justice movement, and the apparent callousness on display in the video of Floyd’s death are motivating many in Chicago to keep a close eye on the trial, which is expected to last about four weeks.

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Protesters are seen in Chicago last year after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis. Andrew Gill / WBEZ

“[The video] did something to me. And I just feel like that is what happened to a lot of people,” said Arewa Karen Winters, a leading organizer with the Black Lives Matter-affiliated group Justice for Families. “The killing of Black people and brown people, it happens so often. But, you know, for anyone to be held accountable, it is like every blue moon, you know, it is so rare.”

Winters’ relative, Pierre Loury, was killed by Chicago police in 2016. Winters said the Chauvin trial could act as a symbolic stand-in for people who have lost loved ones to police violence. And she said she believes there could be mass unrest in Chicago if the jury acquits Chauvin.

“I’m worried about it, I really am. I’m worried about the aftermath. I’m worried about the potentiality of what can happen if people don’t feel justice will be rendered,” Winters said.

Miracle Boyd, a youth organizer with the group Good Kids Mad City, said she hopes the Chauvin verdict doesn’t lead to the mayhem and destruction similar to what Chicago saw last summer. But she said regardless of the outcome, she plans to be out in the streets and expects a lot of other people to be out there with her.

Boyd, a college freshman, said she is doing her best to track the trial in between classes and schoolwork. She is a prison and police abolitionist, but still said she is still hoping to see Chauvin convicted and sent to prison, because it is what Floyd’s family and loved ones are seeking.

“If he isn’t convicted, myself, I’m organizing something … it’s happening,” Boyd said. “Whether he is convicted or not, we’ve got to be out on the streets, whether we’re going to be celebrating [or protesting].”

A police spokesperson said the department, and the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, are “closely monitoring activity related to the trial.”

“We continue to work with other City departments to have the appropriate resources and staffing levels in place to ensure public safety citywide,” said a department statement.

Frank Chapman, an organizer with the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, said his group was already talking about demonstrations around the verdict when it comes next month. And Chapman said he is planning to travel to Minneapolis during the trial to participate in demonstrations.

“We have to keep the pressure up because given the history of policing, not only in that area, but in the whole entire country, you know, police, they get away with this a lot,” Chapman said.

Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice Desk. Follow him @pksmid. Email him at psmith@wbez.org.