The family of George Floyd, their lawyers and hundreds of supporters joined the Rev. Al Sharpton in an act they said symbolizes the torture their loved one endured — taking a collective knee in front of the Hennepin County Courthouse on Monday morning and counting down the minutes former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the back of Floyd’s neck.
At 8:46 a.m., the family knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds before entering the heavily-guarded courthouse for the first day of Chauvin’s murder trial.
The time was symbolic of how long authorities initially said Chauvin, who is white, had his knee on Floyd’s neck as the 46-year-old Black man repeatedly cried out “I can’t breathe” and begged for his dead mother.
“Chauvin had George Floyd down. It had to be intentional. That’s the case we make. With that taking of the knee, the family goes in this court seeking justice for all of us in America,” Sharpton said.
Ben Crump, an attorney for the Floyd family, called the Chauvin trial a “referendum if we’re going to continue to have two justice systems in America — one for white America and one for Black America.”
“The goal today is equal justice for the United States of America,” Crump said.
The tense scene outside the courthouse came just minutes before Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill swore in the jury and opening statements got underway in the high-profile case that has drawn attention from around the world and prompted protests across the nation.
In his opening statement on Monday, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell alleged that Chauvin actually had his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck for longer than 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Blackwell said Chauvin dug his knee into Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, long enough to cause Floyd’s death as a result of oxygen deficiency.
Floyd’s brothers spoke at the news conference, telling people they are bracing for Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, to attempt to denigrate their brother’s reputation to make it seem that he was at fault in his own death on May 25, 2020.
“It’s cold out here, but the heat is on,” said Philonise Floyd. “The state of Minneapolis, Minnesota, they will have to make the right decision. They can’t sweep this under the rug.”
He mentioned other Black people killed by law enforcement, including Philando Castile, a 32-year-old African American shot to death in 2016 during a traffic stop in a suburb of Minneapolis, and Eric Garner, a New York City Black man who died in 2014 after being placed in an illegal chokehold by a police officer.
Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, stood near Philonise Floyd as he spoke.
“One thing I can tell you is we will get justice,” he said. “If we can’t get justice for a Black man here in America, we will get justice everywhere else in America. This is a starting point. This is not a finishing point.”
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