Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States – Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Hennepin County government center in Minneapolis Monday, where the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, charged with the death of George Floyd, is due to begin this month.
Many protesters expressed concern over whether Chauvin would be convicted at Minnesota’s first publicly aired trial, making it one of the most watched police brutality cases in recent history.
But they promised to uphold their demand for Chauvin’s conviction.
“We will continue to show up for the community,” said Anika Bowie, NAACP vice president of Minneapolis. “We understand that justice will reign within us. We’re going to show up and be very persistent and challenge the system. “
Jury selection was originally due to begin on Monday, but a court ruling requiring the judge to consider adding a third-degree murder charge has postponed it to at least Tuesday.
Protesters gather ahead of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on charges of the death of George Floyd [Jackie Renzetti/Al Jazeera]Chauvin is currently charged with second degree murder and manslaughter after kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes during a May 2020 arrest that was captured on video.
Three other officials, who failed to intervene when Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe, will be tried together in August on charges of complicity.
Attorneys for Chauvin, who was fired by police the day after Floyd’s death, have argued that he received his training correctly, Reuters reported.
An unusually long period of three weeks was allotted to find an impartial jury – a likely arduous task.
The questionnaire for prospective jurors includes questions about their prior knowledge of the case, which sparked mass racial justice demonstrations in the United States and around the world.
Other high profile cases
As a rotating line of speakers addressed the crowd in Minneapolis, 28-year-old Josh Simms stood still with a sign that read, “We want justice.”
Simms said he moved to Minneapolis from Chicago in 2013 to attend the University of Minnesota. During that time, four high-profile police killings occurred in the Minneapolis area.
In 2015, Minneapolis police shot and killed 24-year-old Jamar Clark. The two officers at the scene – the city has never clarified which officer pulled the trigger – were not charged.
Less than a year later, 32-year-old Philando Castile was repeatedly stopped and shot in a nearby suburb by policeman Jeronimo Yanez, who was eventually charged by a jury for second degree manslaughter and two dangerous dismissals of a firearm.
“Nothing really has changed,” Simms told Al Jazeera. “If he knows what history is like, there’s a chance he (Chauvin) will be acquitted.”
Josh Simms says there is a chance Chauvin will be acquitted following a story of police shootings in Minneapolis [Jackie Renzetti/Al Jazeera]A few months after Yanez’s acquittal, Somali policeman Mohamed Noor of Minneapolis shot and killed the white Justine Damond after she called to report a possible sexual assault in her neighborhood. Noor was convicted of third degree murder and manslaughter and was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison in 2019.
“[Noor] was taken to jail. But all these other cops out here killing these brothers are going nowhere, ”Darion Scott, 46, who has lived in Minneapolis for 20 years, told Al Jazeera at the rally on Monday.
“This system has been broken for years. The question is when will it stop? “
“It is our responsibility”
On the opposite side of the government building, a group called Visual Black Justice placed mirrors against trees and next to signs with various messages such as “Minnesota will be change” and “It is better to protest than accept injustice”.
Rose petals encircled a large mirror in the center of the building’s lawn with the words “Reflect” on it.
“We all play a role in white supremacy,” said Tay Elhindi, co-leader of the group. “So we have to think and hold ourselves accountable. If we don’t do that, we can’t hold anyone accountable. “
The protesters also chalked messages on boarded windows along the street.
Mimi Vallejo, 25, was sitting with her two-year-old son when her partner added the message, “Free the Caged Children,” a reference to children being caged in US immigration detention centers on the US-Mexico border.
“It comes to a point where we think our children need to be aware too,” she said.
Vallejo, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico as a child, said she grew up fearful of injustices from her government just to face the same problem in the United States.
“That fear was always there for us,” she said. “As people who have also experienced or have experienced oppression and racism from the system, it is our responsibility to be here … The system that killed George Floyd is the same system that my caged relatives on the Limit. “
Protesters placed a mirror in front of the government building where Chauvin’s trial will take place [Jackie Renzetti/Al Jazeera]