Sometimes an image symbolises something more powerfully than words could ever do. No right-thinking person can have viewed the images of the death of George Floyd with anything other than horror and deep concern. Apart from the terrible personal consequences for the victim and his family, they represent images of oppression and subjugation that remind us all of deep historical wrongs and which reverberate around the world.
As lawyers, we believe in the rule of law for that is our business. We believe that all are equal before the law and that justice must be blind to colour or race. A policeman is not above the law, he is its servant. Policing must be with the consent of all of our people, not imposed by the brutality of force. Consent requires the confidence of all parts of our community that, however difficult the situation, policing will be impartial and that those who fail to meet the high standards rightly demanded of the police, will themselves face the same strong justice. Where marginalised or disenfranchised sections of our community have had that confidence undermined, that trust and confidence must be earned back.
The violence inflicted on George Floyd is violence inflicted upon civil society. When something is so wrong, we all have not only the right, but also the responsibility, to say so. As lawyers, in a position of privilege, we owe a twofold duty.