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'It's The Trial For America' D.C. Barbers React To First Week Of Derek Chauvin Trial


The trial of Derek Chauvin continues in a Minneapolis courtroom tomorrow, but the impact of the testimony is being felt far beyond the courtroom. Wall-to-wall coverage of the trial showing the wrenching testimony live as it happens has provoked strong reactions. Our producers Andrew Craig and Sophia Boyd went to the historically Black neighborhood surrounding NPR's Washington headquarters to talk to people about what they have been experiencing as the trial has gotten underway.

JON JORDAN III: This trial is, like, monumental. It's not just a trial for Derek Chauvin. It's a trial for America.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Jon Jordan III was out walking his dog. The 24-year-old said he'd been watching the trial, and he was pleased with the prosecutors.

JORDAN: I feel like they're bringing out good information so far, and it seems like they've - they're creating a strong case. And I feel like, if we get justice in this one case, it's going to be like - kind of like the domino effect, where we're going to start getting justice for a majority of the cases.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: A few blocks south, men were filing in and out of a barbershop called World Class Cuts, getting Easter haircuts. Barber Tarji Irby is the owner. He said seeing video of George Floyd's death played by the prosecution during the trial is hard.

TARJI IRBY: Oh, man. It brought back a lot of anger not only from last year, from my 45 years of life. You know what I mean?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Irby says he was shocked by how the defense portrayed George Floyd.

IRBY: It seems to me they're trying to, you know, defecate his character and highlight his deficiencies as a human being and dehumanize him in a sense. As a Black man, it's infuriating that I could be or my son could be in the same position.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But despite the pain it caused him, Irby plans to keep watching.

IRBY: I just want transparency. You know what I mean? Transparency and accountability.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But others, like Barber Richard Griner, have not tuned in.

RICHARD GRINER: I'm just burnt out from the repetitive nature of all of the stuff, man. We're beating a dead horse. It's good that there's a - it's getting attention. But, I mean, we've been getting attention for a long time, and I feel like we're still in the same boat. My opinion is that we are - we're fighting the wrong fight. I think most of the things that are going on are systematic more so than an individual person such as the officer that killed George Floyd.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Louis Sabb, who also works at the barbershop, agrees.

LOUIS SABB: There's two Americas. There's a Black America, and there's a white America. There's a white justice system. There's a Black justice system. Black people don't get justice. Black people get law. And there's a difference.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The 74-year-old says he won't be surprised if the verdict in Derek Chauvin's trial is not guilty.

SABB: Policemen shoot unarmed Black people, and it always comes out the same. No, I won't protest. It'd be expected. I expect the usual justice we get. Just us - it's always just us.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Some of the reflections on the opening week of Derek Chauvin's trial from World Class Cuts barbershop in Washington, D.C.

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