Jury deliberations have begun in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder and manslaughter for killing George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for over nine minutes last May. On Monday, jurors heard closing arguments in one of the most closely watched criminal trials in years. This is prosecutor Steve Schleicher.
Steve Schleicher: “You can believe your eyes. It’s exactly what you believed. It’s exactly what you saw with your eyes. It’s exactly what you knew. It’s what you felt in your gut. It’s what you now know in your heart. This wasn’t policing. This was murder.”
Judge Peter Cahill gave final instructions to 12 jurors, who will remain sequestered at a hotel during their deliberations.
Thousands of students from dozens of Minnesota schools walked out of classes Monday, demanding justice for George Floyd — and for Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man shot dead by a white police officer during a traffic stop in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center on April 11. The city’s mayor, Mike Elliott, a Black man who was born in Liberia, told CNN Monday, “It’s not safe to drive in Minnesota while you’re Black.”
Mayor Mike Elliott: “And if we see police behind us, we’re afraid. You know, we’re trembling. And that is a kind of terror that no citizen of the United States should ever have to face. It’s constant. It’s ever-present.”
Ahead of the verdict, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz called up 3,000 members of the National Guard, along with 1,100 police officers from around the state. Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson joined protests outside the courthouse on Monday.
Rev. Jesse Jackson: “Even if we win, it’s relief, not victory. They’re still killing our people. Stop the violence. Save the children. Stop the violence. Save the children.”
The World Meteorological Organization warned Monday of a “relentless” worsening of the climate crisis in 2020, as average temperatures soared to 1.2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. That’s close to the 1.5-degree upper limit advocated by scientists to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres announced the findings of the annual State of the Global Climate report.
Secretary-General António Guterres: “We are seeing, indeed, that we live in a triple crisis: a climate crisis, a biodiversity crisis and a pollution crisis. And if we don’t act immediately, we are, as I said, on the verge of the abyss. There is no time to lose.”
The WMO says record heat has accumulated in the world’s oceans, which are becoming more acidic and less oxygenated. 2020 saw sea level rise from melting glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, near-record-low sea ice in the Arctic, severe flooding in Asia and Africa, extreme drought in South America and a record 30 named storms during the Atlantic hurricane season.
Meanwhile, over 400 climate experts have warned that governments are criminalizing and silencing peaceful environmental protesters, including Extinction Rebellion, the Sunrise Movement and School Strike for Climate. Their open letter reads, “It has become abundantly clear that governments don’t act on climate without pressure from civil society: threatening and silencing activists thus seems to be a new form of anti-democratic refusal to act on climate.”
Globally, COVID-19 cases have surpassed January’s peak to set a new record high, amid a growing disparity in vaccination rates between rich countries and the Global South. On Monday, youth climate activist Greta Thunberg said her foundation would donate $120,000 to the U.N.’s COVAX initiative to purchase vaccines for poorer nations.
Greta Thunberg: “It is completely unethical that high-income countries are now vaccinating young and healthy people, if that happens at the expense of people in risk groups and on the frontlines in low- and middle-income countries. And this is a moral test. We talked today about showing solidarity, and yet vaccine nationalism, it’s what’s running the vaccine distribution.”
President Biden on Monday urged all U.S. residents 16 and older to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as his administration began its campaign to combat vaccine hesitancy.
President Joe Biden: “Everybody is eligible, as of today, to get the vaccine. We have enough of it. You need to be protected. And you need, in turn, to protect your neighbors and your family. So, please, get the vaccine.”
U.S. coronavirus infections remain on a high plateau with another 68,000 new cases and nearly 500 deaths reported Monday.
The Cuban Communist Party has chosen President Miguel Díaz-Canel as its new leader, replacing Raúl Castro, who announced his retirement last week. This marks the first time the party is led by a person outside of the Castro family since Fidel Castro led the Cuban revolution in 1959. The party’s change in leadership comes amid an economic crisis in Cuba, exacerbated by harsh U.S. sanctions.
In the Caribbean, a thick layer of volcanic ash has settled over the island of Saint Vincent, after a long-dormant volcano erupted earlier this month. More than 20,000 people have been evacuated and are in urgent need of food, water, clothing and shelter. On Monday, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves appealed to the U.N. Security Council for help.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves: “Please help Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in its midnight hour of need. … Nearly one-fifth of the island’s population has had to be evacuated to safer areas — a monumental challenge of humanitarian relief.”
In South Africa, a devastating wildfire has spread to the University of Cape Town, destroying irreplaceable historical records and documents that were being stored in the university’s library. The blaze, which has been raging since Sunday, tore through a portion of the 200-year-old campus, forcing staff and students to evacuate. South African officials say the wildfire was likely started by an individual, then quickly spread due to heavy winds and high temperatures.
The Washington, D.C., chief medical examiner has ruled that Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick suffered two strokes and died of natural causes. The 42-year-old officer died on January 7, one day after the Capitol insurrection. In March, federal agents arrested two men for attacking Sicknick with a chemical spray on January 6. The ruling is expected to dampen efforts to pursue homicide charges in his death.
Meanwhile, a federal judge has ordered two leaders of the far-right Proud Boys to remain in jail while they await trial for their involvement in the January 6 insurrection. The ruling reversed an earlier decision to release Ethan Nordean and Joseph Biggs from pretrial detention. Nordean is from Washington state, and Biggs is from Florida.
Georgia Republican Congressmember Marjorie Taylor Greene has scrapped plans to form an “America First” caucus, following pushback from leaders in her own party. A flyer promoting the caucus obtained by Punchbowl News features racist, anti-immigrant language, while promoting “common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions.” Congressmember Greene was elected in 2020. She has promoted the racist QAnon conspiracy theory, made frequent anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic comments, and voiced support for political violence against top Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In Alabama, the labor union that failed in its months-long battle to organize an Amazon warehouse in the city of Bessemer has filed 23 complaints against the online retailer with the National Labor Relations Board. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union says Amazon unlawfully interfered with union efforts by threatening to cut workers’ pay, benefits and time off work, while creating an “impression of surveillance” by installing private mailboxes at the warehouse so it could monitor workers’ votes. This is Bessemer Amazon worker Jennifer Bates.
Jennifer Bates: “There was illegal things taking place and fear tactics that was done to people who didn’t have any idea about what a union could do for them, young people who thought that they were going to lose their job because the company said, ’We’re going to shut down.’”
Former Vice President Walter Mondale has died at the age of 93. Mondale spent 12 years representing Minnesota in the U.S. Senate before becoming vice president under Jimmy Carter. In 1984, Mondale won the Democratic Party’s nomination for the presidency and made history by picking a woman, Geraldine Ferraro, as his running mate. Mondale lost to incumbent Republican Ronald Reagan in a landslide.
The government of Chad is reporting that President Idriss Déby has died of injuries he sustained while visiting government soldiers on the frontlines of their battle against rebels in the north of Chad. Déby took power more than three decades ago, after leading a 1990 rebellion that toppled the former U.S.-backed dictator, Hissène Habré.