Guilty. Three weeks after the start of a trial that was watched around the world, a jury of 12 Hennepin County residents delivered their verdict on the three counts against former police officer Derek Chauvin, who murdered George Floyd last May by kneeling on his neck for nine-and-a-half minutes. Judge Peter Cahill read the unanimous verdict.
Judge Peter Cahill: “We, the jury in the above-entitled matter, as to count one, unintentional second-degree murder while committing a felony, find the defendant guilty. … We, the jury in the above-entitled matter, as to count two, third-degree murder perpetrating an eminently dangerous act, find the defendant guilty. … We, the jury in the above-entitled matter, as to count three, second-degree manslaughter, culpable negligence creating an unreasonable risk, find the defendant guilty.”
Jurors deliberated for just over 10 hours before delivering their guilty verdict. Judge Cahill revoked Chauvin’s bail and will sentence him in eight weeks. He faces up to 40 years in prison for the most serious charge, second-degree murder. It’s the first time a white officer has been found guilty of murdering a person of color in Minnesota. An NPR investigation found that police officers have shot and killed at least 135 Black men and women across the U.S. since 2015. At least 75% of those officers were white.
On the streets of Minneapolis and around the country, protesters greeted the news with joy, relief and vows to keep fighting. George Floyd’s murder last May set off a global movement for racial justice and against police brutality. George Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd responded to the verdict at a press conference with other family members and civil rights leaders.
Philonise Floyd: “I’m going to put up a fight every day, because I’m not just fighting for George anymore, I’m fighting for everybody around this world. I get calls. I get DMs, people from Brazil, from Ghana, from Germany, everybody, London, Italy. They’re all saying the same thing: We won’t be able to breathe until you are able to breathe. Today, we are able to breathe again.”
Protests broke out in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday night after a police officer fatally shot a Black teenage girl. Sixteen-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was reportedly in an altercation with two people, and police claimed they thought she was going to stab someone before an officer shot her dead. The unnamed officer has been put on leave. She was killed shortly before Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd. Ma’Khia Bryant had been staying at a foster home. Her mother Paula Bryant spoke to a local news channel about the last time she saw her daughter.
Paula Bryant: “We hugged each other. She said, 'Mommy, I made honor roll.' And she said, 'Mommy, I'm looking forward to coming home.’ … Ma’Khia had a motherly nature about her. She promoted peace. And that’s something that I want to always be remembered.”
A judge has denied a motion to toss the 20-year prison sentence of former police officer Michael Slager, who murdered unarmed Black motorist Walter Scott in South Carolina in 2015. Slager tried to argue that his defense was ineffective, but the federal judge ruled “a careful review of this entire tragic episode makes plain that [Slager] has no one to blame for his present predicament and sentence but himself. What sealed his fate … was [his] own willful act of shooting an unarmed man in the back five times as he ran for his life.”
India has hit a grim new coronavirus milestone with over 2,000 deaths in one day and close to 300,000 new cases. Hospitals are running low on oxygen and available beds amid the devastating surge. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India was facing a coronavirus “storm,” but is resisting another nationwide lockdown, calling instead for regional lockdowns. Meanwhile, the former king and queen of Nepal have tested positive for COVID-19 after attending the religious festival of Kumbh Mela in the northern Indian city of Haridwar, which has drawn millions of pilgrims in recent weeks.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador received his first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine Tuesday after weeks of mixed messages over whether he would get inoculated. He previously said he would not get the shot as he believed his January infection gave him sufficient COVID-19 antibodies. AMLO has come under fire for his response to the pandemic, including his refusal to issue a mask mandate or even wear one himself on many occasions. Mexico’s official death toll is 213,000 — the third highest in the world — but officials said last month the true number could be 60% higher.
Here in the U.S., the State Department is updating its travel advisories to recommend avoiding travel to 80% of countries around the world because of coronavirus risks.
Johnson & Johnson is resuming its rollout in Europe after the EU drugs regulator said the vaccine may be linked to extremely rare blood clots but that its benefits far outweigh its risks. The European regulator said the vaccine should carry a warning. It will be up to individual EU countries to decide whether and how to distribute the J&J vaccine. On Friday, a panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet to make recommendations on its use in the U.S., which has been temporarily halted.
New York congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey reintroduced their Green New Deal resolution Tuesday, over two years after it was first unveiled. It now has over 100 co-sponsors in the House. The plan would overhaul U.S. infrastructure, investing in clean energy and creating 20 million union jobs. This is Ocasio-Cortez at a press conference on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “We’re going to transition to a 100% carbon-free economy that is more unionized, more just, more dignified and guarantees more healthcare and housing than we ever have before. That’s our goal. That’s the goal of a Green New Deal. What we’re going to do is going to make sure that communities like Flint, Baltimore, the South Bronx, St. Louis, rural communities, whose infrastructure was never properly built in the first place, are first in line to rectify the injustices of the past.”
Meanwhile, President Biden is expected to announce plans to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at least in half by 2030 — nearly doubling the target the U.S. committed to under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Biden has convened an international climate summit with world leaders, which will kick off Thursday, on Earth Day.
In Chad, Mahamat Idriss Déby, the son of late President Idriss Déby, has been named interim head of state by a military council after his father died, reportedly while visiting frontline soldiers as they battled a rebel advance in the north of the country. The army has also enacted a nationwide curfew and announced Chad’s land and air borders will be shut down. Rebel forces threatened to move toward the capital, prompting fears of further unrest. Idriss Déby had been in power for over 30 years and was just announced the winner of a recent presidential election before his death. Rights groups are calling for a quick transition to democratic civilian rule and an accounting of human rights abuses under Déby’s reign.
A new report by Reporters Without Borders says journalists in over 100 countries have been blocked from reporting on the coronavirus pandemic and other stories or retaliated against for their work. In its annual report on press freedom, the group also highlighted attacks on U.S. journalists by law enforcement while covering racial justice protests last summer.
In Pakistan, veteran journalist Absar Alam was shot and wounded Tuesday while on a walk near his home in the capital Islamabad. Officials have launched an investigation into the attack, which the Pakistani minister of information condemned as an “assassination attempt.” Alam has been a longtime vocal critic of the country’s military. Journalists are routinely targeted in Pakistan, with news organizations facing censorship from the military and government. Reporters Without Borders recently ranked Pakistan near the very bottom out of 180 countries for press freedom.
Over 250 nonprofits, including Oxfam, Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee, are urging governments around the globe to increase aid for hunger relief programs. In a letter addressed to world leaders, the groups warn over 270 million people are facing acute food insecurity, with many “teetering on the very edge of famine” due to ongoing conflicts, the climate crisis, systemic inequities and the pandemic. Oxfam recently noted, “Only 26 hours of global military spending is enough to cover the $5.5 billion needed to help those most at risk,” and called cuts to food aid by wealthy countries “an extraordinary political failure.”
The Biden administration has officially backed statehood for Washington, D.C., ahead of a House vote on the issue Thursday. The White House called on Congress to “provide for a swift and orderly transition to statehood” for the 700,000 Washington residents who are not fully represented in Congress. The bill is expected to pass the House but faces an uphill battle in the evenly divided Senate, where it would need 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has proposed a guaranteed basic income pilot program, which would make L.A. the largest U.S. city to run such a program.
Mayor Eric Garcetti: “This year, Los Angeles will launch the largest guaranteed basic income pilot of any city in America. We have budgeted $24 million to provide $1,000 a month to 2,000 households for an entire year, no questions asked.”
Data from a similar initiative in Stockton, California, has shown recipients had greater success in finding employment and improved mental health. Around one in five people in Los Angeles lives in poverty.
Standing Rock water protector Steve Martinez has been released after more than 60 days behind bars for refusing to give testimony to a federal grand jury. Martinez was summoned as a witness in the case of Sophia Wilansky, a water protector whose arm was severely wounded during a police crackdown on anti-pipeline protests in 2016. Prosecutors were attempting to shift blame for Wilansky’s injuries from law enforcement to water protectors. The campaign to free Steve Martinez blasted the use of grand juries as a “divisive and cruel tool of repression.”
Supporters of imprisoned African American journalist and activist Mumia Abu-Jamal say he underwent successful heart surgery Monday. Abu-Jamal got COVID-19 last month and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, which he attributed to medical neglect and prison conditions. Advocates are demanding he not be shackled to his hospital bed, and continue to call for his release. Abu-Jamal is 66 years old and has been in prison for nearly 40 years.