/ 22 April 2021

Chauvin guilty verdict sends shockwaves through the US

A US federal investigation has been launched into policing practices in the city of Minneapolis, a day after former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of the murder of George Floyd. The jury took just 10 hours to unanimously convict Chauvin on all three counts of 2nd and 3rd-degree murder and manslaughter. Overnight, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the justice department would review police policies, training, supervision and use of force and look at whether there has been a pattern of “unconstitutional or unlawful policing”.

HOW DID WE GET HERE?
On May 25 last year, Minneapolis police officers arrested Floyd for buying cigarettes with a suspected counterfeit $20 bill. Chauvin was captured on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for over 9 minutes while the 46yo black man repeated “I can’t breathe” more than 20 times before he died. Two autopsies ruled Floyd’s death a homicide. The shocking video immediately sparked unrest in Minneapolis which soon evolved into mass protests against police brutality and racial inequality across America – the scale of which had not been seen since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The 4 police officers involved in Floyd’s arrest were stood down and charged with aiding and abetting 2nd-degree murder and manslaughter. They are due to face trial in August. Chauvin was the only one-handed murder charges. The most severe carries a max sentence of up to 40 years in prison, but he will likely face much less than that due to the state’s sentencing guidelines. He is in the Minnesota Correctional Facility awaiting sentencing in 8 weeks’ time.

WHAT WAS THE REACTION?
Crowds gathered in Minneapolis and major cities around the US cheered and cried as the verdict was readout. “Today, we are able to breathe again,” said Floyd’s brother, Philonise. US President Joe Biden said the conviction could mark “a moment of significant change” and was a “chance to change the trajectory in this country”. Calls for police reform and racial justice formed part of Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, but critics say little has been done on the matter so far, despite a handful of high-profile shootings. Garland overnight said if unlawful practices are found in the new probe, he would issue a public report and bring a civil lawsuit. “The DOJ will be unwavering in its pursuit of equal justice under the law,” he said. As for the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s showing no signs of letting up. But for now, the pictures say it all. You can find a photo gallery here.

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