North Star newsletter- Kendi King

A Look Back On the Landmark Police Accountability of 2021 - Will It Continue?

We saw what felt like more police officers than ever actually convicted of their violent crimes as a result of the landmark BLM protest of 2020, but what does this mean, and will it continue?


Peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors march (Google Images)

In 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement gained landmark support from across the world as the stories of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were made known. Both victims of egregious police violence, both murdered far too young in the most violent manner, and both being Black killed by white men that were members of law enforcement - it became impossible to this issue ignore any longer.

The United States police are deeply racist and wield far too much power - they have become a force of danger, not protection.

Throughout 2021, advocates for social change shifted from pleading for justice to demanding accountability, a marked difference that we would see the outcomes of all year. The thinking among activists and scholars alike was that if police began being held accountable for their crimes, sentenced to prison rather than just desk duty, it would cause other officers to think twice before making the decision to brutalize or end an innocent person's life.

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As a direct result of the public pressure on the pandemic of police violence, we saw police held accountable in an unprecedented fashion.

Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on beloved son and brother George Floyd’s neck until he died of asphyxiation, was sentenced to 22 ½ years in prison.

Kimberly Potter, the officer who fatally shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright, father of a 2-year-old son, was convicted on two counts of manslaughter and awaits sentencing.

Father and son Gregory and Travis McMichaels, one a former police officer and the other a former military man, as well as their neighbor William Roddie Bryan, were found guilty on nearly all charges for the heinous murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery.

Now, let’s be clear - none of this is enough.

The language has shifted from fighting for “justice” to “accountability” because justice is not achievable in these cases. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others are still dead, and their families are still left to grieve.

There is no justice for them.

We call for accountability in the hopes that it will serve as a preventative measure, saving the lives of people we do not know and should not have to know. Every single one of these cases took something out of me and out of communities of color in general that were left to mourn. While there was much relief in the outcome of these trials, there was no joy. It’s hard to celebrate an outcome that took so much advocacy when it should have been cut and dry. Yet, this is still progress - painstakingly slow, but progress nonetheless.

As we move into the new year, I hope only people of color are able to recognize the importance of our efforts and continue the hard work that got us here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kendi is currently a student at New York University and is the author of multiple award-winning poems, short stories, stage, and screenplays.

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