MINNEAPOLIS — Hundreds of people gathered Monday outside the fortified courthouse for the first day of the trial of a former police officer charged in George Floyd’s death, with chants of “No justice, no peace!” and speakers imploring the jurors to “do the right thing.”
Many in the crowd carried banners, some reading “Justice for George Floyd” and “Convict Killer Cops.”
As the judge and attorneys convened high above in an 18th-floor courtroom — with jury selection almost immediately stalling over the state’s effort to add a third-degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin — organizer DJ Hooker lamented the concrete barriers, chain-link fencing, barbed wire and razor wire that has gone up around the courthouse, along with National Guard troops and police standing guard behind.
“We ain’t in that cage over there. What do they call it, the First Amendment zone? The Freedom Zone, I call it a cage,” said Hooker, an organizer with Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar, which was formed after the 2015 death of Jamar Clark in a confrontation with Minneapolis police. “Look what they did to our beautiful downtown. They turned this into a war zone.”
Later, he ridiculed talk of the Chauvin trial as “the trial of the century,” noting the widely seen citizen video of Floyd’s arrest and saying all the jury needs to do is “do the right thing.”
Then he led the crowd in chants of “The whole world is watching!”
The protesters later marched around downtown. The protest featured several speakers that ranged from activists of various organizing groups to the parents of Black men killed by police.
Sam Martinez, an organizer with Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar, said organizers plan similar protests for dates that coincide with significant points in Chauvin’s trial, including opening statements, closing arguments and the verdict.
He said he expects the biggest turnout to be on the day of the verdict.
“When the people know that there needs to be justice, they’ll come out,” Martinez said. “We trust in the people, we know they’ll back us up.”
Mohamed Ibrahim is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.