In Focus

Timeline: one year since the death of George Floyd

Police killing of the unarmed African American prompted moment of reckoning for US race relations

The murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis a year ago today sparked global outrage and triggered a renewed push for reform of US policing powers.

In a video that would go viral, Derek Chauvin was filmed on 25 May 2020 kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight-and-a-half minutes, resulting in the unarmed African-American man’s death. 

As the footage spread online, Black Lives Matter protesters took to the streets in towns and cities across the globe. “During a pandemic that has disproportionately sickened and killed African Americans”, the death of Floyd and other black people at the hands of the US police has “unleashed a rage against oppression”, reported National Geographic in the days following the killing. 

Chauvin was dismissed from his job the day after Floyd’s death, and was last month found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter - a verdict that dominated headlines worldwide.  

Welcoming the decision by a Minneapolis jury, US Vice-President Kamala Harris backed continuing calls for police reform, saying: “This verdict brings us a step closer and, the fact is, we still have work to do.”

Despite Republican opposition, the White House is pushing ahead with major reforms under the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which includes legislation to ban chokeholds, remove qualified immunity for law enforcement, and end racial and religious profiling. The bill was passed by the Democrat-led House of Representatives in March, but has not yet been voted on by the Senate.

A  $27m (£19m) payment to Floyd’s family by Minneapolis City Council was also agreed in March, to settle a civil lawsuit brought against the city and the officers involved in the killing.

Chauvin is due to be sentenced on 25 June but filed a petition earlier this month for a retrial. In court documents, his attorney, Eric Nelson, claimed that the level of public interest surrounding the case was “so pervasive and so prejudicial… that it amounted to a structural defect in the proceedings”. 

Three other former police officers present when Floyd was killed are due to face trial in March next year, and will be charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Prosecutors also “want to add an additional count of aiding and abetting third-degree murder”, CBS Minnesota reports.

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