By Ray Richardson
LOS ANGELES — Delighted with Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict for the murder of George Floyd, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters is gearing up to play an active role in police reform and reiterated that she will continue to be an “activist legislator.”
“I’m so pleased with the verdict,” Waters said April 20 in an interview with Joy Reed on MSNBC. “I’m looking forward to elected officials using their influence and power, especially our city council people who control budgets of the police. Now is the time to use that power.”
Chauvin, 46, was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The convictions could bring a maximum total of 75 years in prison. Sentencing is expected in late June.
Waters, the outspoken congresswoman who has represented South Los Angeles in Congress for almost 30 years, found herself in the spotlight again April 17 during a visit to Minnesota to join protesters in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Duante Wright, a 20-year-old Black man who was shot and killed April 11 by a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minn.
Republicans threatened to censure Waters for her “confrontational” comments. Waters said protesters would have to be more confrontational in the fight for social justice if Chauvin was acquitted in the high-profile trial. Republicans claimed Waters’ comments “incited violence.”
The censure push, led by U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R.-Bakersfield), was tabled April 19. Waters brushed off the disciplinary attempt by Republicans.
“I’m criticized all the time,” Waters told Reed. “The Republicans try to make a target of me. People tried to turn my words into violence. I will continue to do what’s in the best interest of our people.”
Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson filed a motion April 18 for a mistrial based on Waters’ comments, but Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill denied the motion. Cahill, however, expressed strong displeasure with Waters’ comments and gave a warning to elected officials.
“I’m aware of Congresswoman Waters talking specifically about this trial,” Cahill said of Waters. “I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case. If they want to give an opinion, they should do so in a manner that’s respectful and in a manner that’s consistent with their oath in the Constitution … to respect the co-equal branch of government. Their failure to do so is abhorent.”
Cahill was so disturbed by Waters’ comments that he told Nelson the comments could be used by the defense as a basis for an appeal.
Despite being criticized by her Republican colleagues and the Minneapolis judge, Waters doesn’t intend to tone it down.
She also served notice that it’s time for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to flex their legislative muscle and pass the proposed George Floyd Policing Act, a law that would give more power to local and federal jurisdictions to prosecute police in cases of excessive force and brutality.
The bill has House and Democratic support but needs to be passed by the U.S. Senate to become law.
Waters, 82, admitted getting the bill through the Senate “will be tough,” but she’s willing to join forces with today’s younger generation of activists to get the law passed.
“That’s why I say to the young people, you have to keep your activism up,” Waters told Reed. “This is not just going to go away. You would think that even the most conservative Republicans would step forward and say ‘this is too much.’ Millions of people saw George Floyd murdered on the sidewalk.”
Ray Richardson is a contributing writer for the The Wave Newspapers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.