Family and lawyers representing George Floyd kneeled for eight minutes and 46 seconds in front of Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis on Monday.
The span of time represented how long officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck before the unarmed Black man’s death in police custody in May of 2020, and came just minutes before Chauvin’s trial on charges of murder and manslaughter was set to begin.
“Today starts a landmark trial that will be a referendum on how far America has come in its quest for equality and justice for all,” said Ben Crump, a civil rights lawyer. “The whole world is watching.”
“America is on trial,” said civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton, who joined the family members and lawyers in front of the courthouse.
Video of the police interaction preceding Floyd’s death sparked outrage and was one of many high-profile killings of unarmed Black Americans that motivated a summer of racial justice protests.
But while Floyd’s family recently reached a $27 million settlement with the city of Minneapolis, Crump said that justice in the criminal court will likely be more difficult.
The key questions at trial will likely be whether Chauvin caused Floyd’s death. The defense is expected to argue that Chauvin did not intend to inflict harm and suggest that Floyd’s death was related to health maladies and drug use.
Opening arguments in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of murdering George Floyd, are underway. The trial is being broadcast live.
— Al Jazeera News (@AJENews) March 29, 2021
Crump said the defense will try to impugn Floyd’s reputation to defend Chauvin.
“They are going to try to assassinate the character of George Floyd,” Crump said.
“But this is the trial of Derek Chauvin, Let’s look at his record,” he added. “The facts are simple. What killed George Floyd was an overdose of excessive force.”
Brandon Williams, Floyd’s nephew, added that “everyone has seen” the video of his uncle’s death.
“We want to know if we’re going to see justice,” he said.
“We can’t get George Floyd back, but what we can do is make sure that no family feels this pain and suffering that we feel,” he said.
The trial is expected to take four weeks. Three other officers also face lesser charges in Floyd’s death and are expected to be tried in August.