George Floyd killing: protests flare as Americans await verdict in Chauvin trial

Protests against police killings flared across the US this weekend, from Minneapolis to Chicago to Portland, as Americans wait for a verdict in the trial of the white police officer charged with murdering George Floyd last year.

Closing arguments are expected in the Derek Chauvin trial on Monday. The most serious charge the former Minneapolis officer is facing in Floyd’s death is second-degree murder, but the jury might choose to find him guilty on third-degree murder or manslaughter, or acquit him altogether.

Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter charges, arguing that he was following the training he received during his 19 years on the force.

Benjamin Crump, a civil rights attorney representing the families of Floyd and Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old shot to death in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis, by a white police officer during a traffic stop on 11 April, as the Chauvin trial played out, said guilty verdict for Chauvin could set a precedent in the US.

“The outcome that we pray for and Derek Chauvin is for him to be held criminally liable for killing George Floyd, because we believe that could be a precedent,” Crump told ABC’s This Week on Sunday. “Finally making America live up to its promise of liberty and justice for all. That means all of us – Black people, Hispanic people, Native people – all of us.”

Maxine Waters, one of the most influential Black members of Congress, joined protesters in Brooklyn Center shortly before a curfew on Saturday night, and spoke to them about the need to see accountability for Chauvin.

“I hope that we’re going to get a verdict that says, guilty, guilty, guilty,” Waters said. “And if we don’t, we cannot go away.”

“Not manslaughter, no,” Waters added. “This is guilty for murder.”

Minneapolis is braced for potential citywide protests if Chauvin is acquitted or convicted on one of the lesser charges, with buildings across town boarded up, and National Guard troops already in place across the city.

The outcome in the case is expected to resonate nationwide, particularly in cities that have seen continuing demonstrations over police violence.

In Chicago, at least 1,000 people demonstrated in Logan Square on Friday night, in the wake of the public release of a video showing the police killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo.

Activist groups in Chicago there said that multiple young people at the protest were arrested and at least one 17-year-old seriously assaulted by police. Two young people were arrested, including the 20-year-old son of a Black Lives Matter Chicago organizer, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“There are literal children dying every single day in the city of Chicago, and not just because of the lack of funding that goes to Black and Brown communities, but because of the excess funding put into the Chicago police department,” said Alycia Kamil, a 20-year-old organizer with Good Kids Mad City, who attended the Friday night protest.

Kamil said there was an obvious irony in seeing violent police crackdowns on young protesters in Chicago and elsewhere.

“You see youth protesting that they aren’t being protected, that they aren’t being funded, that they’re being murdered by the police, and the reaction is more violence,” Kamil said.

Hundreds of people were expected to gather on Sunday for a “peace walk” in Little Village, the predominantly Latino south-west Chicago neighborhood where Adam lived and was killed. Other vigils were being held around the city to call out racism, and remember Adam and others killed by police.

In Portland, the fatal police shooting of Robert Douglas Delgado, a 46-year-old white man and longtime resident, sparked new volatile protests on Friday night.

The protests in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis, was quieter on Saturday night. In an apparent change in police tactics from earlier in the week, officers did not appear en masse to confront protesters. The police headquarters was shielded behind a double layer of fencing. Minnesota governor Tim Walz had spoken out earlier on Saturday, calling the reports of police violence towards journalists at Brooklyn Center earlier in the week “unacceptable”.

Dozens of American news organizations had signed onto a letter Saturday outlining “widespread intimidation, violence and other misconduct directed at journalists” who have been covering the protests in Minnesota, including the treatment of a CNN reporter who was thrown to the ground and arrested. As she was being detained, a Minnesota state trooper reportedly yelled at the reporter, who is Asian American, “Do you speak English?”

Chauvin himself chose not testify at his trial, which featured 10 days of evidence by the prosecution against him, including hours of meticulous testimony by Dr Martin Tobin, and only two days of witnesses called by Chauvin’s defense.

Waters, a California congresswoman, said she had come from Washington to Minneapolis to join the protesters who have demonstrated for a week over the killing of Wright as the Chauvin trial played out.

“We all need to sustain this movement,” Waters told the crowd. “We cannot stop, we cannot hesitate, but we must say every day, every hour that we are going to persist.”

The California congresswoman also noted that she had been pushing for police reform since the 1970s, when she spoke out over the killing of Eula Love, a Black mother in Los Angeles.

While she would like to see Congress pass police reform legislation, Waters said, she was not certain it would get through: “The rightwing, the racists, are opposed to it.”

“I know this,” she added. “We’ve got to stay in the street.”

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