The time duration took on significance during the fight for justice since it was for the same length of time Derek Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd's neck, killing him.
Trigger Warning: The story has details of police brutality, race-motivated violence, and death that some readers may find disturbing
George Floyd's family and legal counsel took a knee outside the Hennepin County courthouse for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. This served as a symbolic gesture demanding accountability before the murder trial of the former policeman Derek Chauvin, who was caught on camera kneeling on Floyd's neck for the same length of time, which ended up killing him. Chauvin has pleaded not guilty for the charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter charges, despite the overwhelming evidence, reported CNN. This prompted Floyd's family to call for holding the officer responsible as well as for a change in the US justice system.
"Today starts a landmark trial that will be a referendum on how far America has come on its quest for equality and justice for all," civil rights attorney Ben Crump said outside the courthouse, reported The Hill. "This murder case is not hard, just look at the torture video of George Floyd." The infamous video that was recorded by a witness on the street of Minneapolis sparked outrage last year. Police brutality against Black people was highlighted and led to nationwide protests demanding justice for Floyd, among other Black folks who were murdered by the police.
As members of George Floyd's family kneel for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to mark Floyd's death, @shaqbrewster explains what the scene is like and the latest details on the upcoming trial.— Stephanie Ruhle Reports (@RuhleOnMSNBC) March 29, 2021
Tune into @MSNBC for much more. pic.twitter.com/2q2GFpAaKz
Floyd's family members including brothers, cousins and a nephew, attorneys, as well as civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton gathered outside the Hennepin County Courthouse before the trial, according to NPR. They timed their vigil such that it would conclude exactly at 8:46 a.m. local time. They reiterated that it is Chauvin, not Floyd, who is on trial. "Please do not be distracted. What killed George Floyd was an overdose of excessive force," Crump said knowing full well that Chauvin's lawyer would try to blame Floyd for his own death. They would try to assassinate Floyd's character and claim that he died because of a drug overdose.
Derek Chauvin is on trial.— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) March 29, 2021
America is on trial.
Our criminal-legal system is on trial.
George Floyd is not on trial.
Hennepin County medical examiner ruled that Floyd's death was indeed a homicide by asphyxiation. It also stated that there were "other significant conditions" including traces of fentanyl and methamphetamine intoxication and other underlying health conditions such as signs of heart disease. Floyd's sister, Bridgett Floyd, told ABC News, "They would find any way possible for this police officer to not look bad. But, the whole world saw what happened to him. The drugs that they say they found in his system did not kill him... [it] was the pressure that was kneeled down in his neck. It’s not surprising to me but one thing's for sure... the world [has] seen how my brother left this world."
Floyd's family believes that the video, which garnered more than 50 million views on YouTube alone, will help establish what really killed him. Philonise Floyd says they are feeling about the course justice might take. "We know that this case, to us, is a slam dunk, because we know the video is the proof," he told NBC News. "That's all you need. The guy was kneeling on my brother's neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, a guy who was sworn in to protect. He killed my brother in broad daylight." He added, "That was a modern-day lynching."
There were three other officers present along with Chauvin. Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng who were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter. All four were fired on the day of Floyd's death. "My brother was standing up just fine until he put him on the ground with his hands behind his back in the prone position facedown and he decided to kill my brother along with the other officers because nobody tried to render aid," Philonise said. Brandon Williams, Floyd's nephew, noted, "If this trial is hard, we've got two justice systems in America — one for white America and one for Black America."
"We know if George Floyd was a white American citizen... nobody would be saying this is a hard case"— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) March 29, 2021
Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump speaks outside courtroom ahead of trial of US policeman Derek Chauvin, accused of killing George Floyd in May last year
Cover Image Source: Getty Images/Brandon Bell