Justice for Black Americans is the fight of generations

“Well, we’ve got to stay on the street,” Rep. Maxine Waters said, speaking only the truth. “We’ve got to get more active.”

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U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California

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When the always outspoken U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, speaks out, her right-wing critics always respond.

On April 17, as jurors prepared to deliberate in the trial of Derek Chauvin, Waters attended a Saturday evening protest in Brooklyn Center, outside Minneapolis. Along with millions of other people nationwide, she was hoping for a guilty verdict against Chauvin, the white former Minneapolis police officer charged with killing George Floyd, an unarmed Black man.

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If justice for George Floyd is denied, Waters told reporters, “then we know that we’ve got to not only stay in the street, but we’ve got to fight for justice. But I am very hopeful, and I hope that we’re going to get a verdict that will say guilty, guilty, guilty. And if we don’t, we cannot go away.”

She was asked: “What should protesters do?”

“Well, we’ve got to stay on the street,” she said. “And we’ve got to get more active. We’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.”

Conservative critics erupted in outrage, as they do whenever Black voices speak truth to power.

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, announced she would introduce a resolution “to expel Rep. Maxine Waters from Congress for her continual incitement of violence.”

Waters “threatened a jury demanding a guilty verdict and threatened violence if Chauvin is found not guilty,” Green declared, and is “a danger to our society.”

On April 19, Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, tweeted: “This weekend in Minnesota, Maxine Waters broke the law by violating curfew and then incited violence.”

McCarthy introduced a resolution to censure Waters “for these dangerous comments.”

His resolution failed in the House by a vote of 216-210.

“I am nonviolent,” Waters said in response to the criticism. “I talk about confronting the justice system, confronting the policing that’s going on. I’m talking about speaking up.”

Waters’ truth is that, for decades, we have taken to the streets to call for a racial justice that remains elusive. But justice did come for Floyd. On Tuesday, Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

For decade upon decade, people of color in America have been shot, choked and beaten by white police officers. We are asked to trust the criminal justice system even as it fails us time and again.

Chauvin is only the second on-duty Minnesota officer to be convicted of killing a civilian, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Nationally, the information on the fatal use of force by police officers is limited. But CNN offers data from the Henry A. Wallace Police Crime Database, a project of Philip M. Stinson, a professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, who has tracked incidents of alleged police misconduct since 2005.

It reveals that “at least 140 law enforcement officers have been arrested on murder or manslaughter charges related to on-duty shootings in the U.S.,” according to CNN. About a third of that group were convicted on various charges. Only seven officers — 5 percent—were convicted of murder.

Since 2015, on-duty police officers have shot and killed more than 5,000 individuals — 988 in just the last year, shows a database complied by the Washington Post.

Waters must be heard and heeded. The right attacks Waters, yet they stood by silently for four years as their Republican president made incendiary and racist remarks that denigrated vast swaths of our America.

Stay on the streets.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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