Demonstrators call for justice for George Floyd as trial of former police officer is delayed

By: and - March 8, 2021 11:25 am

Pamela Hall sells t-shirts and masks while chanting for justice outside the Hennepin County Courthouse on March 8 in Minneapolis as jury selection begins in the murder trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Jury selection for the trial of Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd was delayed Monday morning, but a few hundred people were in downtown Minneapolis calling for justice for Floyd and criminal justice reform. 

“I hope they convict Chauvin of murder along with the other three officers,” said Rissa Ficken, a member of the White Earth Nation who is active in the Native Lives Matter movement. 

She was not hopeful, however, given the nation’s long history of failing to hold police to account. 

“What I think is going to happen, is they are going to let him get away once again,” she said. 

Ficken said three of her relatives have been killed by police — Philip Quinn, Billy Hughes and Dontaylo Wright — and she supports abolishing the police and shifting to “community control” of law enforcement via an elected council of civilians.

Since Floyd’s death, she hasn’t seen a change in policing in the Twin Cities, she said.  

“Not at all,” Ficken said. 

Pamela Hall was selling t-shirts, masks and tote bags outside the courthouse as she chanted “No Justice. No peace.” 

“I want justice,” said Hall, a Minneapolis resident. “Because I have six grandsons, and they have to live in this world. I want to see them graduate. I want to see them go to college. I want them to have grandchildren. But if the police kill them at a traffic stop, I won’t see them do anything.”

Art seeking justice 

Behind Hennepin County Government Center, dozens of mirrors were laid in the grass and propped up against trees. They were painted with phrases like “You are the problem” and “Reflect” on the front, and emblazoned with messages of encouragement like “We love you” and “We support you” on the back.

The art installation is the work of Memorialize the Movement and Visual Black Justice. Memorialize the Movement was created by Leesa Kelly in June to preserve the plywood murals that had popped up on boarded up buildings after the unrest.

A picture of George Floyd sits in front of the Hennepin Courthouse on March 8 in downtown Minneapolis where former police officer Derek Chauvin is standing trial. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

In the weeks leading up to jury selection, the art groups teamed up to gather and paint the mirrors, Kelly said. They met Floyd’s family with the messages of support as they walked into Hennepin County Government Center Monday morning. It was a powerful moment, she said.

“We were right there with them, feeling the grief,” Kelly said. “We need to be out here to remind the city and state that we have not forgotten.”

She said she’d like to see Derek Chauvin convicted but isn’t confident that will happen. 

“It would be really nice to see justice,” Kelly said. “But do we expect it? No.”

Regardless of the outcome of the trial, she said the artists will continue using art as protest to push for justice.

Epicenter of a movement

Minneapolis resident Michael Smith said he was “feeling good” Monday morning. He was glad to see support for a “just cause” as jury selection started, and optimistic that Chauvin would be convicted and sentenced to at least a decade in prison, he said.

Smith protested all summer, he said, and participated in a demonstration Sunday that he called a quieter, powerful gathering.

“We are the epicenter of this movement. We lit a fire under people that had been dormant for years,” he said. “I’m really proud of our state.”

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.

Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a former data reporter for the Minnesota Reformer. Rilyn was born and raised in Minnesota and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.