The trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder and manslaughter for the May 2020 death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, is set to enter its second day.
Monday’s proceedings began with Floyd’s family members and civil rights lawyers taking a knee for eight minutes and 46 seconds – the time Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck – in front of the Hennepin County court.
At the trial’s opening, the prosecution urged jurors to “believe your eyes” while laying out a case that will rely heavily on the footage of the incident, in which Floyd repeatedly pleaded that he could not breathe. That footage was played for the court on Monday, as well as never-before-seen police officer body camera footage.
Meanwhile, Chauvin’s defence told jurors the evidence extended far beyond those video recordings, saying they would demonstrate that Chauvin followed his training and that Floyd’s death was not directly caused by his actions.
The first witnesses in the trial also took the stand on Monday, beginning with 911 operator Jen Scurry, who said she watched officers pin down Floyd for so long she thought the “screens had frozen” on her feed. She took it upon herself to call in backup as she watched the incident unfold.
The other two witnesses included Alisha Oyler, a cashier working at a nearby store, and Donald Williams, a mixed martial arts fighter who witnessed the deadly interaction and, who Al Jazeera correspondent John Hendren points out, “was a key witness on the first day of the trial”.
Williams is set to return to the stand on Tuesday for the second day of witness testimony, after a technical glitch in the live stream of the proceedings cut short the first day.
The witness can be heard on a bystander’s mobile phone screaming at Chauvin, at one point calling him a “bum” and accusing the white police officer of “enjoying” his restraining of Floyd.
He told the court on Monday he believed that Chauvin was using his knee in a “blood choke” on Floyd, a wrestling move to knock an opponent unconscious.
Chauvin’s lawyers are expected to counter that Williams has no knowledge of police manoeuvres.
Floyd’s death sparked outrage and racial justice protests across the US and became part of a larger movement to change discriminatory policing practices.