Over the last two years, we’ve seen a rise in social justice movements dealing with race and policing.
These issues took center stage this year in high-profile court cases, and experts say they could have an impact on legislation and elections in 2022.
In 2021, we saw trials, stemming from the deadly police incidents that sparked protests.
The convictions of former Minnesota police officers Derek Chauvin and Kim Potter grabbed the nation’s attention. A jury found Chauvin guilty on all charges in the death of George Floyd. A jury found Potter guilty of manslaughter in the death of Daunte Wright.
"This is certainly the year where we’re seeing some type of police accountability," said Jason Williams, an associate professor of Justice Studies at Montclair State University.
He said these verdicts will keep social justice in the spotlight for 2022
However, Williams said another big verdict - the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse - is sure to have an impact in the new year, too.
"It seems to give the green light to far-right vigilantes to attend these types of demonstrations," he said. "We may see more of those instances."
Rittenhouse successfully claimed self-defense after shooting and killing two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin and injuring a third during civil unrest following a police shooting.
"I think going into the next year we really need to pay closer attention to it, especially given the Rittenhouse verdict," Williams said.
The professor also predicts it could bring proposals for changes to gun laws and even self-defense laws at the state level in the new year.
"It's hard to decipher sometimes between the rhetoric, meaning like is the politician just going to sprout rhetoric or are they actually going to do something about it," Williams said.
When it comes to the 2022 midterm elections, Williams said all of these cases will continue to play out in a big way.
"Unfortunately, policing issues continue to be a very big political wedge and both parties will tend to use them to their advantage to gain some type of movement with their base," he said.
There’s another big topic leading up to the midterms.
"Voter rights are being shown to be sort of the quintessential issue, especially as the January 6th fiasco continues to unravel," Williams said.
Williams said political parties will likely rally even more to get supporters to the polls.
He adds other social justice issues like the student loan debt crisis, the fight over K-12 education curriculum and women’s rights will likely get more attention in 2022 as well.
"I do think going into this next year there’s going to be some pressures from all kinds of advocacy groups,” Williams said.