On a deserted field in a residential area on the south side of Minneapolis there are seven rows of white signs. There are at least a hundred in total, with the names of black Americans who were killed by violence. The field is around the corner of the intersection where George Floyd choked under the knee of Agent Derek Chauvin. A few miles away, a jury is currently judging Chauvin‘s fate.
The intersection has been deposed by activists, the streets around it as well. It is dotted with flowers, banners, wreaths and slogans. It is the remains of a year of actions and protests that expanded from this crossroads to the whole of America, and far beyond. “George Floyd “stood for racism, police brutality, imbalance of power all over the world.
But it started at that moment on May 25, 2020, when Derek Chauvin attempted to arrest Floyd and stayed on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Even when Floyd himself said he couldn’t breathe anymore and even when Floyd stopped moving, because he had already suffocated.
The intersection is almost empty on the last day of the trial against Derek Chauvin. But the question over Minneapolis is all the more compelling: is this case going to end in a sense of justice? Will there be a conviction for murder? And what will happen to all the accumulated emotions if Chauvin were to go free?
Jury meeting, tension rises
The answer to these questions is now in the hands of a select group: the twelve judges in the case. They are now going into deliberation, completely isolated from the outside world. If one of the jurors feels that it is not conclusively established that George Floyd was killed by murder, there will be no conviction.
That means that today is the most exciting day in this process. If it stays quiet all day, it means there‘s at least one person on the jury who’s in doubt. In that case, the judges will have to convince each other, which can take several days or even weeks. The jury may take as long as it takes to reach a unanimous verdict.
If they really do not come out among themselves, the judge will first put pressure on them to continue and reconsider everything. Ultimately, the judge can decide that there is no unanimity. Then the case has to be completely over, with a new jury.
Outside, on the sidewalk of the court, there‘s also a jury: the public, the people of Minneapolis, and actually the people of all of America. It has been working on the question of whether there will be justice since 25 May last year.
“ Everything has been filmed, everyone can see what has happened,” says Michael Jones, watching the closing arguments on his phone in court. He’s got a big speaker hanging from his wheelchair so everyone can listen in. “That video makes that there is a unique chance of justice in this case.” It was as if the president had been shot, says Jones; everything has been recorded down to the smallest detail.
“ The question in this case is whether it is possible to ignore what you see with your own eyes. We see a murder, it‘s that simple,” says Jones. He expects justice because, according to him, it is almost impossible to come to another conclusion. “It would be totally bizarre if there was no conviction.”
Jones ends up in a debate with a younger boy, Robert Mitchell, who also came to see. “You are much older than me, you have been waiting for justice much longer without it coming,” says Mitchell. “You should know better.”
Mitchell feels that inside the court, there’s no question of justice. “They‘ve also convicted a murderer before,” he says, “but that hasn’t stopped the killing.” He‘s referring to the death of Daunte Wright last week. Also in Minneapolis, also by a police bullet.
“ Even before one killer is convicted, the next one has struck again,” says Mitchell. “That’s not justice anyway.”
At the beginning of the evening, it gets more and more crowded on the sidewalk in front of the court. As has been so many times this year, there is a small demonstration. Two women allow to watch, mother and daughter. “It just needs to be a conviction,” says the mother sharply. “Otherwise, the law in this country will not apply to black Americans.”
According to her, there will be an outburst of violence if Chauvin walks free. “If we are unable to condemn someone who is in the picture to kill another person, when is it a crime? “If that happens, it really goes wrong,” she says. “But we deserve it.”