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Minneapolis Pastor On Chauvin Trial: 'Justice Is Supposed To Be Blind'

Apr 4, 2021
Originally published on April 4, 2021 5:03 pm
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LEILA FADEL, HOST:

And finally today, I've been here in Minneapolis covering the trial of Derek Chauvin for NPR, the ex-police officer accused of killing George Floyd. Outside the courtroom, I've been speaking to people all across the city about this trial and what this moment means. One of those people is Pastor Curtis Farrar. I spoke to him recently. And he began by telling me how on the evening of May 25 last year, he walked outside his church, the Worldwide Outreach for Christ.

CURTIS FARRAR: I think it was about 8 o'clock. And so we saw the officers over there across the street, and we saw that they had a young man down. So here on 38th and Chicago, we see that a lot.

FADEL: That's the intersection in South Minneapolis where George Floyd was killed and where Pastor Farrar has preached for more than three decades.

FARRAR: You always see officers here. So we thought it was just something that was just happening. You know, it'd be over in a few minutes. And so I watched for a while. And then I went home, and one of my parishioners called 30 minutes later and said, they killed him. And I was absolutely shocked.

FADEL: Now, across from the church, the intersection is a constant reminder of the killing of a Black man by police, a memorial to George Floyd.

What's different about your community today versus 10 months ago?

FARRAR: Well, a lot of different emotions. That's what I see out here. A lot of uncertainty, anger. It seems as though people are coming together around this particular issue here, this thing that happened with George Floyd. At least, I hope that's what's happening, you know? Sometimes it takes a major event like this to cause people to come together, unfortunately, you know, because when it first happened, it was just African Americans out here marching. But after a couple of days, it was a whole lot of different races, ethnicities coming together here.

FADEL: He described the unity, the coming together, with a healthy amount of skepticism, which he says comes from being a 76-year-old Black man in America.

FARRAR: Very painful to watch all of this because I've seen it before. And I've been around. I mean, I've been in riots before. I've seen Black men beat to death, shot. I was beat, beaten within an inch of my life by police some years ago. And so I had a real resentment, to say the least, about policemen.

And the confidence that I had at one point I felt was destroyed, violated because I didn't think a person with a uniform, a people with uniform, had badges and guns and the authority to use them, and on their cars, it says, to serve and protect. I really didn't think they would do another human being like that simply because of the color of their skin.

FADEL: The pastor says it's difficult to relive what happened to him and many others, to relive what he saw happen across the street more than 10 months ago. And tomorrow, the trial of the ex-cop accused of killing George Floyd resumes in his city.

Have you been watching the trial, pastor?

FARRAR: Yes.

FADEL: What's that been like?

FARRAR: Teary-eyed for me. I mean, for me to watch a man beg for his life - and all we had was mama. I mean, I can relate to that - mama. You know, mama - I mean, it made tears come to my eyes to see a man's life, a human being just like you - could have been me, matter of fact - lose his life by people that's supposed to protect him. And, you know, there's always that uncertainty with most people of color. I mean, when you leave your house, you don't really know. When the police stop you, you don't really know - not really. So that really touched me to see him going through that.

FADEL: It sounds like it's hard to watch.

FARRAR: It's real hard.

FADEL: Why do you watch? And why is the trial important to watch?

FARRAR: Because I think it's important for us to not forget how things are, how things can be, what we're facing, what we're dealing with in our communities.

FADEL: You mentioned, pastor, that you've seen this type of thing happen before. Is anything different about this moment, about this sacrifice, about now?

FARRAR: Well, the only difference is everybody has seen it. You know, everybody for some reason took notice. I think we've had camera work before because people have taken pictures, but this particular situation - this is what I believe - I believe it's the God moment because God was trying - only God can get the attention of the whole world, the whole wide world.

FADEL: And now the world is watching what the justice system will do to the former police officer filmed with his knee pinning George Floyd's neck to the ground for more than nine minutes. The other three officers in that video will be tried in a separate case. But Pastor Farrar says he's distrustful of the justice system.

FARRAR: Well, we've seen juries before. I was the same age of Emmett Till when they killed him. He and I were the same age. See, I got to be pretty old now, right? But Emmett Till and I was the same age. And I remember Emmett Till. I really remember Emmett Till. That 13-year-old boy, they beat him so bad with bricks in his face because a lady, a white lady, said that he whistled at her.

Years later, we found out the lady said that she'd laughed. And I remember Medgar Evers. I was a young man in Mississippi. Oh, I could name them all, I mean, down the line. But I'm just saying, I remember. I remember, and nothing happened. They got - found the people, had a jury selection, nothing happens. That's been happening for years, so I don't have any confidence yet.

And I've always said this, that justice is supposed to be blind, but I think that justice have on just a cheap pair of shades. That's all because they're seeing that, hey, this person here is Black, and his life is not as valuable as somebody else's life. That's the way we feel. We may not talk much about it anymore because it's been a part of our community forever, ever since I was a little boy.

FADEL: How do you look at the future?

FARRAR: Well, I have serious hope for our future. But my hope at this point, after all I've seen over the years, is in God.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.