On Wednesday night, Seth Meyers offer chastened relief at the conviction of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. “In many ways, the most powerful evidence in this case has been right there in front of us since the video first emerged,” the Late Night host said. “It’s what we saw with our own eyes.”
As the prosecutors argued in court: “Use your common sense, believe your eyes.”
“It’s amazing that even needed to be said,” Meyers responded, “and yet it did, because Chauvin’s defense and so much of the defense of racist police abuse writ large depends on telling us to believe our eyes.
“It was a simple yet powerful statement that applied to so much of how our racist system of policing and oppression is built,” he continued. “We can see the injustice with our own eyes, but there’s a whole industry of people, from police unions to private prisons to cable pundits, whose very lucrative job is to try to convince us that we can see here with our own eyes and ears is not real.”
To underscore the point, Meyers returned to the initial police report of Floyd’s murder from before the video was released – “man dies after medical incident during police interaction” – to remember “just deeply detached from reality it was”.
“It’s shocking. It’s hard to fathom,” he said. “It’s like writing a book report about Lord of the Flies that says, ‘Kids successfully cooperate during tropical vacation, remain Llifelong friends.’
“It was at the very least a relief to have what we saw with our own eyes confirmed by a court of law, even if it’s still a sorrowful moment of grief and mourning,” Meyers added of the verdict. But a conviction on all three counts “does not mean justice was done. True justice would mean George Floyd would still be alive today. True justice would mean black people no longer having to live in fear of being killed by police.”
“While yesterday’s guilty verdicts are a step toward justice, they don’t change the fact that a man was murdered and black people are still being killed by police,” said Samantha Bee on Full Frontal. “We have a long way to go to make this country that, I don’t know, actually treats everybody like human fucking beings?”
“And there are many steps we need to take to get there,” she added. “One of them is legalizing marijuana.”
As Bee argued throughout her monologue, full federal legislation of the drug, whose criminalization has disproportionately incarcerated black and brown Americans, is a civil rights issue. Yet Joe Biden still opposes federal legalization, preferring to leave the issue up to individual states.
“It’s not surprising” that there’s significant opposition to legalization, Bee explained, as “nearly a century of anti-marijuana rhetoric has left many people still scared of the drug, but marijuana isn’t just for spliff kings anymore.” A 2019 Pew survey found that more than two-thirds of Americans think marijuana should be legal, “so for every three people there are two puffs and one pass”.
“It’s time to legalize on the federal level,” said Bee, as it would allow states to make their own laws, businesses to operate without intense restrictions, and remove barriers for researchers to study the drug.
It would also start to undo decades of racist fearmongering about cannabis as a “gateway drug”, used as justification to prosecute and incarcerate people of color in a devastating “war on drugs”. “White people stand to profit massively off of an industry that has been and continues to be largely harmful to people of color,” said Bee. “We need to legalize marijuana, and we definitely need to stop using it to harass and target black and brown people.”
America was still “emotionally processing” the conviction of Chauvin, said Stephen Colbert on Wednesday night. The verdict “brings up a lot of complex feelings, because no jury verdict can bring George Floyd back”.
“The problem of police violence against people of color is still far from solved,” the Late Show host continued. “While this is a welcome verdict, it’s like wiping up a spill on the Titanic – good job, now let’s focus on the water pooling around our ankles.”
Colbert also touched on Biden’s comments about the verdict “Seems like it took a unique and extraordinary convergence of factors” to secure a “much too rare” conviction, the president said Tuesday evening.
“Yeah, it should not take nine minutes of damning video to get some accountability,” Colbert added. “There’s a reason the pledge of allegiance doesn’t say, ‘With liberty and justice for all who are being on filmed on an iPhone.’”
And in Los Angeles, Jimmy Kimmel provided a brief update on the Matt Gaetz sex scandal. The Florida congressman and Trump lackey is in “spin mode” amid the fallout from a federal investigation into alleged sex trafficking: he’s paid $160,000 on fundraising consulting, six figures on a commercial disputing the allegations, and $5,000 to Trump acolyte Roger Stone for “strategic consulting”.
“Wow, I wonder how much he would’ve paid if he was guilty?” Kimmel deadpanned.
“I guess he figured ‘my career is sinking like a stone, I might as well hire one’.”
Stone is “the notorious Washington dirty trickster”, Kimmel explained. “It’s funny how these guys rail against ‘the swamp’, and then the minute they get in trouble they head right for the creature from the Black Lagoon.”