GUILTY, THRICE!

MINNEAPOLIS—The police officer who pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck until well past Mr. Floyd’s final breath was found guilty of murder and manslaughter on Tuesday in a case that shook the nation’s conscience and drew millions into the streets for the largest racial justice protests in generations.

The verdict, which could send the former officer, Derek Chauvin, to prison for decades, represented a rare rebuke for police violence, following case after case of officers going without charges or convictions after killing Black men, women and children.

The jury deliberated just 10 hours before the judge received word that they had reached a decision.

At the center of it all was an excruciating video, taken by a teenage girl, that showed Officer Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on the neck of Mr. Floyd, who was Black, for 9 minutes 29 seconds as Mr. Floyd pleaded for his life and bystanders tried to intervene. 

Mr. Floyd repeatedly said,  “I can’t breathe” more than 20 times during the encounter.

The video, played on a horrifying loop for the past year, triggered more than calls for changes in policing.   It sparked Americans of all races, in small towns and large cities, to gather for mass protests chanting, “Black Lives Matter,” challenging the country to finally have a true reckoning over race. 

Their demands reverberated inside institutions, from corporate America to the halls of Congress, that had long resisted change.

This week, over the course of two days, a racially diverse jury of seven women and five men deliberated for just over 10 hours before pronouncing Mr. Chauvin guilty on all three charges:  second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

President Joseph R.  Biden Jr. praised the verdict in a nationwide address at the White House on Tuesday, but called it a “too rare” step to deliver “basic accountability” for Black Americans.

“It was a murder in full light of day and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see,” President Biden said.  “For so many, it feels like it took all of that for the judicial system to deliver just basic accountability.”

Hours before the jury came back with a decision, President Biden had taken the unusual step of weighing in, telling reporters that he was “praying” for the “right verdict.”

“This can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America,” he said.

After the verdict, Philonise Floyd, one of Mr. Floyd’s younger brothers, spoke at the Hilton hotel in downtown Minneapolis. 

“We are able to breathe again,” he said, holding back tears.

He drew a line from his brother back to the 1950’s and Emmett Till, a Black child who was lynched in Mississippi. 

“We ought to always understand that we have to march,” he said.   “We will have to do this for life.  We have to protest because it seems like this is a never-ending cycle.”

Follow by Email
Instagram