Minneapolis, US – Selwyn Jones lived a quiet life in the small town of Gettysburg, South Dakota. He and his wife run a hotel in the town with a population of 1,300 people. Their day-to-day life is far removed from the epicentre of the fight for racial justice against police brutality.
That all changed on May 25, 2020, when George Floyd was killed after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin put his knee on Floyd’s neck for 9.29 seconds, sparking worldwide protests against police brutality.
Selwyn Jones is Floyd’s uncle.
Jones, 54, and his wife, Joie, are in Minneapolis to accompany the trail. On Friday, after the first week of the Chauvin murder trial concluded, Jones spoke exclusively to Al Jazeera.
“This is all like a bad dream,” he said. “You see somebody that you loved and cherished for 45, 46 years and one day he’s gone.”
Jones said it has been hard to relive Floyd’s death in the trial. “It’s like somebody sticks their hand in your chest and rips your heart out.”
Jones said it was particularly hard to watch the surveillance camera footage from Cup Foods, the convenience store Floyd was in before he died. The video showed Floyd at times fidgety, but other times laughing and being playful.
The police were called to the store when it was suspected Floyd used a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes.
“When I saw that video of him in the store, that’s us, laughing, dancing, you know what I am saying? And to know that he got killed. No, murdered, all for $19 and 100 pennies.”
‘Mad at the system’
Floyd told Al Jazeera he hopes his nephew’s death can help change the US system of justice to be fairer towards Black men.
“I’m not mad at any individual person now,” he said. “I’m mad at the system. So if we can get this [trial] done and get a good conclusion we can then fix the system. Because we have an opportunity for the first time ever to fix the system because of the death of my nephew.”
Chauvin’s defence lawyer said in opening statements they will argue Floyd did not die from the chokehold, but rather from drugs found in Floyd’s system at the time of the incident.
While the prosecution admits Floyd struggled with opioid addiction, Jones said the defence using that to blame his death is painful and misguiding.
“There have been plenty of people in this world who have been high before that didn’t get murdered in the middle of the street like a dog,” Jones said.
“[The defence] is trying to assassinate [Floyd’s] character. It’s a proven fact Floyd had an issue, he had demons. But his demons did not put him in a situation to get killed. He wasn’t fighting, he wasn’t arguing, he wasn’t doing any of those things that you would coincide with being murdered.”
While most legal onlookers say the prosecution has put on a strong case so far, Jones said he is not sure Chauvin will be convicted.
“We’ll see,” he said. “I am waiting. I’ve been living a long time and nothing surprises me any more. I am going to keep waiting and hope things come out the way they are supposed to.”