To the editor,
The editorial regarding the Derek Chauvin trial in the March 11 edition of the Star (‘There’s no way to avoid the upcoming storm’) was off the mark. It begins noting the trial will be long, noting the jury selection alone may take three weeks. It’s no surprise jury selection will be more exacting than usual, given the extensive news coverage received. Selecting impartial jurors will be difficult and of paramount importance to make sure Mr. Chauvin gets a fair trial.
The daily demonstrations have started, but the editorial missed their purpose and importance. With few exceptions, the protesters do not expect to influence the trial or the verdict. It is integral to our justice system such proceeding be impartial and fair, something the protesters believe and approve. The purpose is to keep important issues foremost in the minds of Minnesotans.
Acts of civil disobedience are part of a long history of protest in our country. Discomfiting the citizenry (i.e. nonviolently blocking a busy road) can seem like the only way to bring about awareness of an injustice, the perpetrators willing to face consequences such as fines or even imprisonment. Holding police officers accountable who break the law as well as crime and educational disparities in minority communities need to be addressed. Conversations must be held, ideas put forth and debated, consensus gained and translated into action. The results, we hope, improving both communities and the work of dedicated police officers.
While I share the writer’s unease a few individuals may turn from peaceful protests to violence, I believe the majority of protesters will be peaceful. Local authorities are better prepared to handle any individuals who turn to rioting. Those who do break the law should face the consequences.
Broadcasting the trial, a safer alternative to a packed courtroom during a pandemic, may have the opposite effect feared by our editorial writer. Hearing testimony from witnesses as well as arguments from opposing attorneys may produce understanding of the verdict, defusing anger before it blossoms into rage. Transparency may be a tonic rather than fuel to the fire, and is always preferable to information funneled through ‘inside’ sources, some who may have an interest in distorting what transpires.
Finally, I was disappointed in the editorials use of the term ‘riff raff’. The implication protesters might be undesirable or disreputable is unwarranted. The protesters are simply seeking a more just society.