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Thousands march in silence in Minneapolis demanding justice for George Floyd ahead of trial of killer cop

US demonstrators hold placards during the “I Can’t Breathe - Silent March for Justice” in front of the Hennepin County Government Center on March 7, 202, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by AFP)

Thousands of protesters have marched in Minneapolis, Minnesota demanding justice for slain African-American George Floyd and others killed by US police.

The protesters gathered for the “I Can’t Breathe” silent rally in the city ahead of the criminal trial of former Minneapolis white police officer, Derek Chauvin, charged with murder in Floyd’s death.

They carried a symbolic coffin, with most participants wearing black shirts that read, “A man was lynched in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.”

Protesters gathered near the courthouse and held up “Black Lives Matter” placards, demanding “justice for George Floyd.”

“I think the primary mood is anger, anger at the killing of George Floyd, anger at the police reaction afterward and anger at the preparations for this trial,” said activist Dave Bicking, a board member of the advocacy group Communities United Against US Police Brutality.

“And what led to the uprising the first time was anger over the fact that the city has just absolutely avoided doing anything to rein in the police,” he noted.

Civil rights attorney and activist Nekima Levy Armstrong read from a 45-foot scroll with more than 400 names of Minnesotans who organizers say have been killed by the US police over the past two decades, US media said.

A protester struck by the long list of the slain people said, “You just sit and think, ‘Is it always going to be this way?’ When will the police killings end, and when will any of those families ever get justice?”

Minneapolis protesters said they were doubtful that the killer cop Chauvin will be convicted.

"It would be naive to think, or to believe that Chauvin will convicted because we see time and time again that police do things like this or worse and get off", said a protester.

“Do you think we can handle an acquittal? Do you think the world can handle an acquittal?" says Jones, a maternal uncle to Floyd, whose death under the knee of the white Minneapolis officer on May 25, 2020 sparked outraged protests in the US and around the world.

"Something's got to be done, but me being a Black man, I know that sometimes things aren't done the way they're supposed to be done for us," Floyd's uncle added.

The killer cop was videotaped as he knelt on the neck of Floyd for nearly nine minutes, asphyxiating him.

Benjamin Crump, a prominent civil rights attorney representing the Floyd family, said, "You look at the video, and you hear George say 28 times, ‘I can't breathe.’”

The trial for Chauvin, who has been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter as well as a possible third-degree murder in Floyd's death, begins on Monday.

Chauvin's trial could be delayed as Judge Peter Cahill of the Hennepin County district court must now weigh again reinstating the third-degree murder charge.

The 19-year veteran of the US police force was released from prison on bail in the fall and is expected to plead not guilty to the murder and manslaughter charges.

"Mr. Chauvin acted according to MPD policy, his training and within his duties as a licensed peace officer of the State of Minnesota," according to his lawyer, Eric Nelson. "He did exactly as he was trained to do."

Three other police officers involved in Floyd's arrest -- Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao -- face lesser charges and will be tried separately.

The death of Floyd outraged people around the world and set off one of the largest protest movements ever seen in the United States, with daily demonstrations against US police brutality and racism.

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