America breathes

MINNEAPOLIS, United States (AFP) — “Guilty!” As the jury’s murder conviction against white ex-policeman Derek Chauvin was relayed on a loudspeaker yesterday, the anxious crowd in front of the Minneapolis courthouse erupted in joy and expressed relief.

More than 200 people had gathered to hear the verdict for the man accused of killing African American George Floyd an event that sparked protests against racial injustice around the world.

“Guilty on all three counts,” a man announced over a megaphone. Tears streamed down more than one face in the crowd. “Today we celebrate justice for our city,” he added.

“I can’t believe it… guilty,” said 28-year-old Lavid Mack, who stood on a concrete block to get a better view of the gathering. He had not thought Chauvin would be found guilty.

A woman stepped out of the crowd, too moved to speak, and fell into the arms of a friend.

Another woman, her eyes brimming with tears, voiced her relief: “Now we can finally start to breathe,” said Amber Young.

“This year has been so traumatic, I’m now hoping for some healing,” she said.

“I am feeling tears of joy, so emotional that no family in history ever got this far. We were able to get a guilty charge on all counts. We got a chance to go to trial and we took it all the way. This, right here, is for everyone that’s been in this situation. Everybody,” said Floyd’s brother, Rodney.

Floyd family lawyer Ben Crump said, “Painfully earned justice has finally arrived for George Floyd’s family. This verdict is a turning point in history and sends a clear message on the need for accountability of law enforcement. Justice for Black America is justice for all of America!”

Former US President Barack Obama said: “Today, a jury did the right thing. But true justice requires much more. Michelle and I send our prayers to the Floyd family, and we stand with all those who are committed to guaranteeing every American the full measure of justice that George and so many others have been denied.”

Former first lady and ex-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “George Floyd’s family and community deserved for his killer to be held accountable. Today they got that accountability.”

Former US President Bill Clinton commented: “The jury made the right decision in convicting Derek Chauvin for murdering George Floyd. His tragic death, and the evidence at the trial, made painfully clear that we must do much better in recruiting, training, and holding law enforcement accountable to the communities they serve. The failure to do so continues to plague America, as we have seen in recent days.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson added his voice, saying: “I was appalled by the death of George Floyd and welcome this verdict. My thoughts tonight are with George Floyd’s family and friends.”

Fists in the air, a group of a dozen people started chanting, “Black power! Black power!”

Before the verdict was announced, one man was waving a bottle of brandy in the crowd, hoping to open it if Chauvin was found guilty.

The road in front of the courthouse was closed to traffic and several vehicles that were turned away honked their horns in support of the crowd.

In the past week, tensions had been mounting in Minneapolis, which was rocked by massive protests following Floyd’s death last year.

Troops from the National Guard have been patrolling the tense city and most of the businesses had boarded up their storefronts just in case unrest broke out again.

The courthouse itself was surrounded by armoured vehicles, concrete walls, and 10-foot high metal fencing, a testament to the sensitivity of the case that ignited the largest protests over race and police brutality in a generation.

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