Nearly one year after George Floyd‘s murder, justice may be served. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, charged with murder and manslaughter in his May 25, 2020 death, is finally standing trial. As the public awaits a verdict, here’s what you should know about Floyd, the circumstances surrounding his unjust death, and his legacy.
1. Floyd Died After A Police Officer Knelt On His Neck For 9 Minutes
In footage taken by witnesses that night, Floyd could be heard pleading “please, please I can’t breathe” while pinned to the ground by a white officer, later identified as Chauvin, 45. The disturbing footage surfaced on May 26, a day after Minneapolis police responded to a complaint of a “forgery in progress,” according to a police statement (per CBS News). Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck with his knee outside a police car, the unarmed man pinned helplessly to the ground.
Three other officers stood by and watched it happen. “My stomach hurts… my neck hurts. I can’t breathe,” Floyd, 46, begged, soon calling out for his mother. Chauvin continued to kneel on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds, until Floyd lost consciousness. Floyd died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. His official cause of death was “asphyxia,” according to his autopsy.
2. Floyd’s Alleged Killer Is Now On Trial
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is currently standing trial for Floyd’s death. After being fired from the Minneapolis Police Department, Chauvin was charged with second-degree and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin pleaded not guilty to all charges after his attempt at a plea deal was rejected by the Department of Justice. If convicted in the trial, which began March 28, 2021, Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison.
3. Floyd’s Death Sparked Nationwide Protests
After the footage of Floyd’s murder surfaced, Black Lives Matter demonstrations began in nearly all 50 states. Protesters marched for justice for not only Floyd, but other Black individuals who had recently died at the hands of police, including Breonna Taylor. The peaceful demonstrations were met with violence and pushback from police, who often employed tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper spray to disperse crowds. At one point, the NYPD trapped 5000 demonstrators on a bridge between Brooklyn and Manhattan, only to arrest them as they left for breaking city-mandated curfew. The BLM demonstrations lasted for months.
4. Floyd Was Beloved Among His Peers
He worked as security for Conga Latin Bistro, and the establishment’s owner is now mourning the loss of an employee whom he also considered his best friend. “He was the type of guy he was friendly to everybody. He didn’t discriminate, whether you were hispanic, you were black, you were white, he treated everybody with respect and that’s what I love about him,” Jovani Thunstrom told CBSN Minnesota.
5. Floyd Moved From Houston For A ‘Fresh Start’ In Minneapolis
“He came to Minnesota to get a fresh start, and Minneapolis to him… we like this place where people were just kind and open to him,” Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross, told CBSN Minnesota. Floyd’s days-long memorial and funeral service was held in Houston in early June 2020. Thousands gathered outside the private services, carrying signs of support to honor his memory. Reverend Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy, calling Floyd’s death, “not just a tragedy, but a crime.”
“This is a time that we need to understand that they are going to do everything they can to delay these trials to try to wear this family down. Until these people pay for what they did, we’re going to be there with them. Because lives like George’s do not matter until someone pays for taking their lives,” Sharpton said. Floyd’s funeral was also attended by now-President Joe Biden, as well as celebrities like Tiffany Haddish and Jamie Foxx.