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March 08, 2021, 4:45 p.m.
Minneapolis (dpa) «I can’t breathe» – George Floyd’s plea for air shortly before his death went around the world. Mass protests against racism followed. Now the alleged main culprit is on trial.
Almost a year after the unarmed African American George Floyd was killed in a police operation in the United States, the trial of the white main defendant Derek Chauvin begins.
The former police officer is charged with second degree murder, among other things, which has resulted in up to 40 years in prison in the state of Minnesota. The trial begins today under tight security in the city of Minneapolis. This week, first of all, the jury will be selected.
Floyd’s fate had led to mass protests against police violence and racism for months – even though the pandemic meant that in many places there were actually strict requirements. The protests shook the United States on an historic scale. There were also demonstrations against racism in many other countries, including Germany – often with the motto “Black Lives Matter”.
The 46-year-old Floyd was killed in a brutal arrest in Minneapolis on May 25 last year. The police arrested him on suspicion of paying with a fake $ 20 bill. They handcuffed him and pushed him to the ground in the street. Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for a good eight minutes while Floyd pleaded for him to breathe. “I can’t breathe,” he said several times. According to the autopsy, Floyd passed out and died. Videos of the operation – recorded by passers-by – spread like wildfire.
The expectations of the process are high. Many people, including arguably most blacks, are hoping for a long prison sentence for Chauvin. They hope for a verdict that will set an example against racism and police violence.
Chauvin, who was released after the incident and was later bailed, is charged with second degree murder without intent. According to German law, this charge would be more like manslaughter. The prosecution also accuses him of second-degree manslaughter. In Minnesota this can be punished with an additional 10 years imprisonment. The prosecution also prevailed on Friday in an appeals court to accuse Chauvin of third-degree murder. They are imprisoned for up to 25 years. The court has yet to agree. Chauvin must be present during the procedure.
After the jury has been selected, the main trial will begin on March 29. According to the court, the hearing should then take up to four weeks. During this time, the jury is to be largely sealed off from the public, the names of the jury will remain secret. Due to Corona, the presence in the negotiation room on the 18th floor of the building has also been severely limited. For example, only one representative from each of the Floyd and Chauvin families may be present, as ordered by Judge Peter Cahill. Only two journalists are allowed to be present – but the process will be broadcast live.
The courthouse is cordoned off with concrete barriers and fences because of the trial. The police are on a large scale, and the governor has also approved the deployment of the National Guard. According to the media, the additional security precautions will cost millions of dollars. After Floyd’s death, there had been massive riots in Minneapolis, numerous shops and a police station went up in flames.
The remaining three ex-police officers involved in the operation against Floyd are charged with aiding and abetting. They will be on trial in a separate trial starting August 23rd. They too could face long prison sentences if convicted.
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 210308-99-729995 / 3