Killing of George Floyd: US braces for verdict in Derek Chauvin murder trial

Hundreds of protesters marched through the streets of Minneapolis calling for change

Nearly 11 months of unrest is coming to a head in Minneapolis.

The city has seen widespread protests and social upheaval since George Floyd, a black man, died in police custody last year.

This week, hundreds of protesters once again marched through the streets of downtown Minneapolis calling for change as the jury deliberated the case against the white officer accused of causing Floyd’s death.

“I’m out here fighting for justice,” Loretta Van Pelt, a special-education teacher, said on Monday.

“I’m out here because I’m sick and tired of the system. I’m tired of the cops killing unarmed black and brown and native folk, especially in the state of Minnesota. I’m sick of the racism in the state of Minnesota. I’m sick of it all. That’s why I keep coming out here.”

The atmosphere in the Minneapolis was calm on Tuesday, as the city waited for any sign the jury may have reached a verdict.

Prosecutors and Mr Chauvin's defence on Monday had made their closing arguments in the trial, which started on March 29.

The former police officer is facing three charges in the death of George Floyd: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Mr Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes after arresting him for allegedly using a fake $20 bill in May 2020.

The jury will make a separate ruling on each of the three charges.

President Joe Biden said on Tuesday he is “praying the verdict is the right verdict” and that he believed the case to be “overwhelming".

He said he had called Floyd’s family on Monday to offer prayers and said he “can only imagine the pressure and anxiety they’re feeling".

Mr Biden told reporters he was only weighing in on the case because the jury had been sequestered and would not hear his comments.

National Guard deployed

People in Minneapolis are expecting citywide protests if Mr Chauvin is acquitted or convicted on one of the lesser charges.

The city has become a fortress. Building after building has been boarded up. Concrete barriers and razor wire surround the courthouse and National Guardsmen stand at the ready on street corners.

“When I walk outside, I feel like I’m in a war zone,” said Kiara Durham, a local resident. “It feels terrifying.”

The Minnesota National Guard said it had posted about 3,000 service members alongside hundreds of police officers to keep the peace during the trial and its aftermath.

The city of Minneapolis is still reeling from weeks of protests, sometimes violent and destructive, that took place in the city following Floyd’s death last year.

The city as well as its suburb of Brooklyn Centre were the sites of renewed protests following the death of another black man, 20-year-old Daunte Wright, at the hands of police on April 11.

As closing arguments wrapped up on Monday afternoon, Minneapolis officials held a press briefing with leaders from the city’s black community.

P J Hill, vice president of the Minneapolis branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, encouraged people to express themselves in a "positive and safe manner".

"We want to bridge the gap between community and law enforcement. It will take all of us ... to keep our city safe," he said.

The outcome of the case will be a major ruling for cities across the US, especially ones that continue to witness killings of their residents by police.

According to several reports, Mr Biden has voiced concern about potential unrest following the announcement of the verdict.

Several major American cities have increased security measures.

Officials in Washington have requested the presence of unarmed National Guardsmen in the city before the verdict.

Reverend Jesse Jackson speaks to protesters in downtown Minneapolis on Monday, April 19. Willy Lowry / The National
Reverend Jesse Jackson speaks to protesters in downtown Minneapolis on Monday, April 19. Willy Lowry / The National

Reverend Jesse Jackson made an impromptu visit to one protest in Minneapolis late Monday evening. Mr Jackson implored the crowd to keep resisting and to keep demonstrating for change.

“I honestly have a good feeling about it," said Ms Durham, the local resident.

"Regardless of what happens, I do feel justice is coming soon.”

Updated: April 20, 2021 10:02 PM

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