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Protesters demand justice before former officer goes on trial in George Floyd’s death

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A man holds a portrait of George Floyd during a demonstration outside the governor's mansion on March 6, 2021, in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by AFP)

Protesters have staged a rally in front of the Minnesota governor's mansion to demand justice days before a former Minneapolis officer goes on trial in the death of African American George Floyd.

Many of the roughly 150 people who demonstrated in Minnesota on Saturday were family members of victims of police brutality.

The protest was organized by Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, a coalition of families who have lost loved ones in police confrontations.

Speakers in the event demanded that other cases of fatal police encounters be reopened and examined in light of Floyd’s death.

Several other protest rallies have been organized in cities around the United States ahead of the trial of Derek Chauvin, charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death.

Activists have planned a “We Demand Justice for George Floyd” rally in Pensacola, Florida, on Sunday, according to a Facebook event post.

More solidarity rallies have been planned around the country on Monday.

Floyd died on May 25 last year after Chauvin pressed his knee against his neck as he was being held face-down on the ground in handcuffs. Floyd was arrested by Minneapolis police after a grocery store employee reported that he had allegedly used a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes.

Body-camera footage provided by prosecutors show Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes, even after he had stopped moving. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Jury selection in Chauvin’s trial is secluded to begin Monday.

On Friday, the Minnesota appeals court ordered the trial judge to reconsider adding a third-degree murder charge against the officer, a development that could delay the start of proceedings.

Heavy security measures, including barricades and fencing around the courthouse, have been put in place ahead of the trial. 

Defense attorneys for Chauvin claim he followed standard police procedure and allege that Floyd had died in custody because he had recently injected fentanyl, an opioid.

Two autopsies ― one conducted by county officials and the other by independent pathologists commissioned by Floyd’s family ― have established homicide as the cause of Floyd’s death.

Video of the incident in Minneapolis sparked protests and around the world and highlighted ongoing race struggles in America.

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives on Wednesday passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a reform bill that would ban the use of chokeholds by police officers and alter “qualified immunity” for law enforcement.

Members voted 220 to 212, mostly along party lines.

“Time and time again we have witnessed the people who are sworn to protect our communities abuse their power,” Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota said on the House floor before the vote.

Last year, the House passed a similar version of the legislation, but it failed in the Republican-controlled Senate. This time, Senate Democrats would have to win at least 10 Republican votes for the bill to pass.

Republicans argue that the proposed measure goes too far and would prevent police from doing their jobs effectively.

Rep. Carlos Gimenez, Republican of Florida, said on the House floor on Wednesday that the bill would “weaken and possibly destroy our community's police forces.”

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