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‘We cannot turn away’: President Biden hails police officer’s murder verdict for George Floyd killing

Crowds streamed into the streets of Minneapolis after the jury announced their decision


Lisa Robinson of Washington reacts as the guilty verdict is announced in in Minneapolis. AP

Lisa Robinson of Washington reacts as the guilty verdict is announced in in Minneapolis. AP

Lisa Robinson of Washington reacts as the guilty verdict is announced in in Minneapolis. AP

US President Joe Biden welcomed the conviction of former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin of murder in the arrest of George Floyd, a milestone in the fraught racial history of the United States and a rebuke of law enforcement's treatment of Black Americans.

Quoting Floyd, Biden said: “’I can't breathe.’ Those were George Floyd's last words. We cannot let them die with him. We have to keep hearing them. We must not turn away. We cannot turn away. This can be a moment of significant change.”

He added that Mr Floyd's death was "a murder in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world" to see systemic racism.

But he said: "It's not enough. We can't stop here. We're going to deliver real change and reform.

"We can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will ever happen again."

Former US president Barack Obama and Michelle Obama said: “Today, a jury did the right thing. But true justice requires much more. Michelle and I send our prayers to the Floyd family, and we stand with all those who are committed to guaranteeing every American the full measure of justice that George and so many others have been denied.”

Former First Lady and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said: “George Floyd's family and community deserved for his killer to be held accountable. Today, they got that accountability. Always and forever, Black lives matter.”

However, there was no word from former President Donald Trump, who stoked racial tensions during his time in office.

Chauvin could be sent to prison for decades, with the guilty verdicts being met with jubilation and sorrow across the US.

His three-week trial ended swiftly with barely more than a day of jury deliberations, then just minutes for the verdicts to be read - guilty, guilty and guilty - and he was handcuffed and taken away to prison.

Hundreds of people poured into the streets of Minneapolis, the city where Mr Floyd was killed, some running through traffic with banners.

His younger brother Philonise, speaking at a press conference, said: "Today, we are able to breathe again."

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Tears streamed down his face as he likened Mr Floyd to the 1955 Mississippi lynching victim Emmett Till, except that this time there were cameras around to show the world what happened.

The jury, comprised of six white people and six of black or multi-ethnic backgrounds, came back with its verdict after about 10 hours of deliberations over two days.

The now-fired white officer was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

At a park next to the Minneapolis courthouse, a hush fell over a crowd of about 300 as they listened to the verdict on their mobile phones. Then a great roar went up, with many people hugging, some shedding tears.

At the intersection where Mr Floyd was pinned down, a crowd chanted, "One down, three to go!" - a reference to the three other fired Minneapolis officers facing trial in August on charges of aiding and abetting murder in Mr Floyd's death.

Mr Floyd, 46, died on May 25 after being arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit 20 dollar bill for a pack of cigarettes at a corner market.

He panicked, pleaded that he was claustrophobic and struggled with police when they tried to put him in a car and put him on the ground instead.

The centrepiece of the case was the excruciating bystander video of Mr Floyd gasping repeatedly, "I can't breathe" and onlookers yelling at Chauvin to stop as the officer pressed his knee on or close to Mr Floyd's neck for what authorities say was nine and a half minutes, including several minutes after Mr Floyd's breathing had stopped and he had no pulse.

Prosecutors played the footage at the earliest opportunity, during opening statements, and told the jury: "Believe your eyes."

Minnesota governor Tim Waltz said: “Today's verdict is an important step forward for justice in Minnesota. The trial is over, but our work has only begun.”

And UK prime minister Boris Johnson said: “I was appalled by the death of George Floyd and welcome this verdict. My thoughts tonight are with George Floyd's family and friends.”

Chauvin will return to court in two months when he will be sentenced.

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