US authorities were braced for protests as the jury selection process began on Monday in the trial of a cop involved in the death of George Floyd.
George Floyd died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in June after police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck during an arrest. His death sparked a global wave of Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests against systematic racism.
Chauvin is facing charges of second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, which means causing death without intent.
George Floyd’s family had pushed for Chauvin to be charged with first-degree murder—wilful or premeditated killing. There other police officers—J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas K. Lane and Tou Thao—are charged with abetting second-degree murder and are due to stand trial in August.
Proceedings were halted almost immediately on Monday. Prosecutors questioned whether the judge, Peter Cahill, could move forward without ruling on the prosecution’s efforts to reinstate a charge of third-degree murder—effectively manslaughter.
Cahill threw out this charge last year saying that it could not be applied to the case. However, he was ordered by the Minnesota Court of Appeals on Friday to reconsider his decision.
Cahill said on Monday that he planned to move forward with jury selection and other pretrial matters. The uncertainty over precisely what charges Chauvin was facing when the jury was selected could potentially become an issue raised by the defence as a reason to appeal against any guilty verdict.
It will be outrageous if the legal manoeuvres stop justice. There are already mobilisations demanding the truth about Chauvin's actions.
Over 150 people demonstrated in front of the Minnesota governor’s mansion last week.
One Minneapolis resident, Kasim Abdur Razzaq, said, “The community is hurting and in pain. As a black man I have to think about how police have responded to people being upset and vocalising that.
“No matter the verdict, there will be a heavier police presence in black communities.”
The authorities have already gone to great lengths to try and beat back potential protesters. This includes plans to use Operation Safety Net, which would put more police onto the streets.
Some 2,000 National Guard troops were also expected to take to the streets after opening statements by lawyers.
At least $1 million—over £700,000—was reportedly being spent to install fences and other barricades around the courthouse and police precincts during the trial.
The lower house of the US Congress has passed a bill that would attempt to ban some of the police’s tactics.
Democratic congressperson Karen Bass, who authored the bill, said, “Never again should an unarmed individual be murdered or brutalised by someone who is supposed to serve and protect them.
“Never again should the world be subject to witnessing what we saw happen to George Floyd in the streets in Minnesota.”
This new legislation shows the impact of the BLM protests against racism and police brutality.
It shows that Biden senses reforms must be made to contain some of the anger that exploded after Floyd’s death.
But while the George Floyd Bill made it through the House of Representatives, it would require 60 votes to pass in the Senate.
This would mean getting the support of ten Republican senators, which is an unlikely prospect.
And the steps it proposes are minuscule changes to an institutionally racist and unreformable police force.
The power to take on systematic racism lies with the movement, not the Democrats.