George Floyd: The murder that drove America to the brink

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People here waited anxiously for weeks and months, first, as the trial unfolded, and then during the final, nerve-wracking hours, while the jury deliberated. The stakes of the trial were extraordinarily high, and people are relieved, and also trying to process the tumultuous events.

It is a landmark case for police violence against black people, and the verdict marks a significant victory for the activists who have pushed for policing reform: Derek Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

The jury’s decision means police will now be under increased scrutiny, say legal experts, and are more likely to be prosecuted, and convicted, for wrongdoing. The verdict could usher in a kind of policing, say analysts, with more accountability for officers, as well as new policies for the use of force. And for many, the trial was a sign that the system works.

“It shows that police officers are not above the law,” says Jack Rice, a lawyer in the twin cities, Minneapolis and St Paul. “It will impact future cases that come before the court. What is even more important, however, is that it will impact the behaviour of officers when they are performing on the street. It’s beyond the criminal case – it’s about what the officers do on a daily basis.”

News of the monumental verdict travelled fast. Activist Rosa Gomez, 19, was in her college dorm, and Erika Atson, 20, also an activist, was at home, when it was announced.

Says Atson: “I’m happy. Just super happy.”

Gomez agrees: “A huge relief.”

The reaction of Rich Stanek, a former sheriff of Hennepin County, the place where the trial was convened, and his colleagues was different.

He was at a conference of law enforcement officials in Idaho, and was not surprised by the verdict. Among he and his friends, though, there was no celebrating: “People were sombre.”

Activists were elated, others reserved. But for all, it was the end of a journey, the conclusion of a trial that had riveted them, and people around the world, and held them in its grip.

Floyd’s death outside of a store, Cup Foods, in May 2020 had set off massive protests and looting. Then, the sensational trial convened, and became the most closely watched one in decades.

Of the dozens of people whom I spoke with here in town, during the weeks the trial unfolded, nearly all agreed that their city had been transformed by the experience. They differed greatly, though, in their views of what the change meant, and whether it was good or bad.

Agencies

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