The brutal police killing of African American George Floyd rocked America and the world. His fate tore open the deep wounds of racism in the United States. “No justice, no peace,” demanded many demonstrators. Now the case ends up in court.
For around eight minutes, the white policeman kneels on the neck of the unarmed African American George Floyd. “I can’t breathe,” the 46-year-old pleads several times before falling silent forever. The police officer Derek Chauvin bores his knee further into his neck, ignoring screaming passers-by. Videos captured the brutal police operation. After that, countless demonstrators in the United States called for “justice for George”.
Now the expectations are high: Chauvin will be tried from this Monday.
Many people, including arguably most black Americans, are hoping for a long sentence. For a verdict that sends a signal against racism and police violence – a signal that violence against black people in the USA does not go unpunished. However, if the court in Minneapolis, northern Minnesota, imposes only a small sentence on Chauvin, or acquits him, there could be another wave of protests.
The trial against Chauvin begins with the selection of the jury, the main trial is not due to start until March 29th. The court has already been cordoned off with concrete barriers and fences, the police are on a large scale, and soldiers from the National Guard have been mobilized. The security forces want to allow peaceful protests, but also prevent riots like those that followed Floyd’s death.
The police officer, who has since been released and was released on bail, is accused of second-degree murder without intent. They are imprisoned for up to 40 years. According to German law, this would be more like manslaughter. The indictment also accuses Chauvin of second degree manslaughter. This can also be punished with 10 years imprisonment. An appeals court ruled Friday that Chauvin could also be charged with third degree murder. It says up to 25 years imprisonment – but this decision could delay the process a little more.
A prison sentence for Chauvin seems very likely, given the evidence. It is questionable, however, whether the court will find him guilty of murder as well. The length of the prison sentence will depend on this.
The fate of Floyd was, along with the pandemic and the election campaign, one of the three mega-events that shaped 2020 in the USA. The brutal killing of the black man on May 25 reopened the deep wounds of racism. There was an outcry across the country. Despite the Corona requirements, there were mass protests against police violence and racism that lasted for weeks. Many observers spoke of the largest wave of protests since the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Almost everywhere during protests there were posters with inscriptions such as “Black Lives Matter” (for example: Black lives are important), “No Justice, No Peace” (no justice, no peace) or “White Silence, White Violence” (white silence , white violence). Observers such as former President Barack Obama noted that never before have so many whites taken to the streets for black rights.
More than 150 years after the abolition of slavery and a good five decades after full legal equality for blacks in the United States, there is still a lot of catching up to do. The structural disadvantage of the minority, which makes up around 13 percent of the population, has many facets: Blacks live less long on average and are less well educated than whites. Studies have shown that the net worth of the average white family is up to ten times greater than that of a black family. In addition, African Americans and blacks are significantly more likely to be victims of police violence.
Floyd’s death and the protests set a lot in motion. Numerous statues of personalities accused of slavery or oppression of blacks disappeared from the public eye. Celebrities donated to organizations that fight against racism. Companies promised to provide more targeted support to members of minorities. There were also changes in professional sport, from the National Football League (NFL) to the football association.
Several states and cities launched police reforms to prevent excessive use of force. They banned police officers, for example, from strangleholdings and neck restraints, or restricted the officers’ immunity. There were only limited changes at the federal level, largely due to then-US President Donald Trump and his Republicans.
A few days ago the House of Representatives passed a law named after George Floyd for police reforms. The Senate still has to give its approval – and it is uncertain whether the necessary majority will be achieved there.
Floyd’s death also marked a turning point for the US election campaign, especially since it politically electrified blacks, members of minorities and also many whites: Trump complained above all about allegedly violent demonstrators and did not want to see any signs of structural racism in the USA. His then challenger Joe Biden, on the other hand, stood behind the movement, met with Floyd’s family and campaigned for the fight against racism. The Democrat and his black Vice President Kamala Harris now rule the White House – not least because of the support of many blacks.
According to media reports, in 2020 killer cop Chauvin was ready to accept a ten-year prison sentence without trial. Then the Ministry of Justice is said to have vetoed. Letters from Chauvin’s attorneys suggest they are trying to argue the use was justified because Floyd resisted. They also argue – in contradiction to the official autopsy – that Floyd’s death was mainly caused by his bad health and drug residues in his blood.
The police arrested Floyd on suspicion of paying with a fake $ 20 bill. The other three ex-police officers involved in the operation are charged with complicity in murder and manslaughter of the second degree. You are free on bail and will have to appear in court from August 23rd. If convicted, they face long prison terms.