Jury finds former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, guilty on all counts.
Derek Chauvin has been found guilty on all three charges related to the killing of George Floyd, whose death last May sparked protests across the United States against racial injustice and police violence.
A jury in Minneapolis, Minnesota, reached its widely awaited verdict on Tuesday afternoon.
People across the US were on edge as they braced for the decision, as protesters demanded justice for Floyd on Tuesday outside the Minneapolis government building where the trial was heard.
Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter – a result that gave way to relief and jubilation.
Here’s how people in Minneapolis and across the US reacted to the verdict on Tuesday:
In a Tuesday evening address, Joe Biden said nothing can ever bring George Floyd back, “but this can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America”.
Biden said the verdict “is much too rare” in the country – and it took a confluence of factors “for the judicial system to deliver … just basic accountability”.
“This can be a giant step forward on the march toward justice in America,” he added. “This can be a moment of significant change.”
This can be a moment of significant change.
— President Biden (@POTUS) April 20, 2021
Al Jazeera’s Liza Ramrayka, reporting from San Francisco, said local leaders in California welcomed the decision.
“What this verdict does reflect is that the tide is turning in this country, although still too slowly, toward accountability and justice,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement.
Oakland Mayor Libby Shaaf also tweeted that “deep structural racism” that pervades the US is what leads to the killing of Black men like Floyd.
Today’s verdict is a just one, and it’s also an indictment. The deep structural racism that pervades our country – and leads to the state-sponsored murder of Black men like George Floyd and too many others – must end. Juries shouldn’t have to tell us this.
— Libby Schaaf (@LibbySchaaf) April 20, 2021
Al Jazeera’s Creede Newton reported that people were marching on 7th Street in Minneapolis on Tuesday evening chanting, “Change is here!”
The atmosphere in the city was joyful after the verdict was announced, as “all three counts” was repeated throughout the crowd.
Demonstrators held images of George Floyd, Daunte Wright, Philando Castille and others killed by police.
Abdiaziz Farah, a 26-year-old onlooker, told Al Jazeera he did not follow the the trial, but was happy to see Chauvin convicted. “The whole world saw the video. We know what happened. It was murder.”
“Today we feel a sigh or relief, but it can not take away the pain. A measure of justice is not the same as equal justice,” said Kamala Harris, speaking at the White House.
Harris urged the US Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which she introduced as a senator in 2020.
“America has a long history of systemic racism. Black Americans, and Black men in particular, have been treated throughout the course of our history as less than human,” she said.
“Black men are fathers and brothers and sons and uncles and grandfathers and friends and neighbours. Their lives must be valued in our education system, in our healthcare system, in our housing system, in our economic system, in our criminal justice system – in our nation, full stop.”
Speaking to Al Jazeera before the verdict was announced, Minneapolis resident Jermal Gavin said he thought Chauvin deserved to be convicted on all three charges against him.
Gavin said he was harassed by police for years in his home state of Missouri before moving to Minneapolis earlier this year.
“I’ve only been here for about two months but I just believe this will move things,” said Gavin, standing outside the Hennepin County courthouse. “Change is needed. This will change generations.”
George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, said he feels relieved that Chauvin was found guilty – and hopes he will now be able to get some sleep.
“It’s been a long journey,” said Philonise, adding that he views Emmett Till as “the first George Floyd”.
Till, a Black teenager from Chicago, was lynched in 1955 in the state of Mississippi. His mother refused to close the casket at his funeral, and his brutal killing helped fuel the US civil rights movement.
Stewart said it should not have been so hard to attain this level of justice. “The whole world should not have to rally to get justice for one man, but that’s what happened.”
He said the fight for justice for George Floyd “wasn’t one family’s case, this was the entire world’s case, and justice finally came”.
Agnes Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International, said justice has been rendered for Floyd, but hundreds more are still waiting.
Justice for #GeorgeFloyd has been rendered. But there are hundreds more waiting for justice. Todays verdict should only be the first step towards a long overdue proportionate attention to, and admission of, the historical crimes committed against black communities pic.twitter.com/iBcaQSppKE
— Agnes Callamard (@AgnesCallamard) April 20, 2021
“This is just the first step. We know very clearly that justice has been delayed,” said Representative Joyce Beatty, the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
“When we come today, we will continue to say all of the names. We will fight continuously for all of those who died or have been injured senselessly by law enforcement,” Beatty said, calling for the passage of a federal police reform law.
The US House of Representatives has approved a reform bill named for George Floyd that would ban the neck hold that killed him. The bill has been stalled by Republican opposition in the Senate.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, speaking outside the courthouse, said the guilty verdicts bring accountability, “which is the first step towards justice”.
He said George Floyd “mattered because he was a human being”, while describing the bystanders who witnessed his death as “a bouquet of humanity”.
“They stopped and raised their voices, and they even challenged authority because they saw his humanity,” said Ellison.
Four teenagers and a nine-year-old girl were among the 10 bystanders who testified during the first week of Chauvin’s trial, offering riveting testimony about what they saw that day last year.
Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, was praying inside the courtroom as the family awaited the verdict, Al Jazeera correspondent John Hendren reported.
“The entire time he was praying … and as the first verdict was read, his hands started to shake,” Hendren said.
Chauvin stared briefly at the empty jury box after jurors left the courtroom and looked at Philonise before being led away in handcuffs.
US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are expected to speak on Tuesday evening about the verdict.
Biden spoke with Minnesota Governor Tim Walz after the announcement, the White House said.
Biden and Harris also spoke with Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, after the verdict was read.
President Biden and VP Harris call the Floyd family after the GUILTY verdict! Thank you @POTUS & @VP for your support! We hope that we can count on you for the police reform we NEED in America! ✊🏾 pic.twitter.com/cg4V2D5tlI
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) April 20, 2021
“There is an incredible amount of relief in Minnesota that justice was served,” said Ronald Sullivan, a professor of law at Harvard University. The verdict shows the jury rejected the defence’s argument that Floyd died because of heart disease or drug use, Sullivan told Al Jazeera.
“They didn’t believe what the defence suggested were alternative causes of death. It seemed too far-fetched, too speculative and too unlikely,” he said.
“Substantively, this verdict was correct and for the good of the country.”
“This feels different for our community, justice feels new and long overdue,” says US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who represents a district that includes Minneapolis.
This feels different for our community, justice feels new and long overdue.
Rejoice, my beloved community. Grateful to @AGEllison, jurors, and everyone who made this possible.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) April 20, 2021
The Black Lives Matter movement said it hoped the verdict helps the Floyd family rest easier.
But it said “this isn’t proof the system works” because it took 330 days “to confirm what we already knew”.
We support the Floyd family and hope this news helps them rest a little easier.
— Black Lives Matter (@Blklivesmatter) April 20, 2021
Gene Rossi, a former US federal prosecutor, said the rapid deliberation by the jury shows that Minnesota prosecutors proved their case very effectively.
“This is a historic verdict. This was a historic trial. It is very difficult to prosecute a police officer,” Rossi told Al Jazeera.
He said that when a jury does not ask questions, that signals “there is little friction in the room”.
“When they come back in such a quick time after a lengthy trial – this was almost three weeks – that spells bad news for the defendant. And of course, it was bad news.”
Al Jazeera’s Creede Newton, reporting from outside the court in Minneapolis, said cars honked in celebration after the verdict was read.
Autumn, who declined to give her last name, told Al Jazeera she did not think guilty on all counts was possible.
“I’ve been out here for many years. I was out here for Philando Castile. And we did not see justice served. So years later, fast forward, I had this sinking feeling that I was gonna see the same results. So now that I’m here and seeing guilty charge on all counts, I am so excited but I feel hesitant,” she said.
Castile, a Black man, was fatally shot during a traffic stop in Minneapolis-St Paul in 2016.
Muslim civil rights group Muslim Advocates welcomed the jury’s verdict on Tuesday, calling it “a long-overdue measure of justice for the Floyd family”.
The group called for the other officers involved in Floyd’s killing to also be held accountable.
Three other officers who were with Chauvin at the time of Floyd’s death will appear in court in August to face lesser charges.
“Further, we must all take drastic, immediate action to overhaul the law enforcement and justice systems that have allowed this violence to continue for so long,” said Muslim Advocates Executive Director Farhana Khera.
Minutes after the announcement, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said the verdict “delivers accountability for Derek Chauvin, but not justice for George Floyd”.
“Real justice for him and too many others can only happen when we build a nation that fundamentally respects the human dignity of every person,” Sanders said in a tweet.
The jury's verdict delivers accountability for Derek Chauvin, but not justice for George Floyd. Real justice for him and too many others can only happen when we build a nation that fundamentally respects the human dignity of every person. https://t.co/JyJFztQbDu
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) April 20, 2021
Al Jazeera’s Creede Newton, reporting from Minneapolis, said an air of excitement and dread hung over the city after authorities announced that a verdict had been reached.
A group of activists outside the court chanted: “What do we want? Justice. If we don’t get it? Shut it down!”
Before the verdict was announced, US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that he believed the case was “overwhelming”.
He said he had spoken to Floyd’s family on Monday and “can only imagine the pressure and anxiety they’re feeling”.
“They’re a good family and they’re calling for peace and tranquility no matter what that verdict is,” Biden said. “I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict. I think it’s overwhelming, in my view. I wouldn’t say that unless the jury was sequestered now.”