“I was appalled by the death of George Floyd and welcome this verdict. My thoughts tonight are with George Floyd’s family and friends,” tweeted the UK prime minister late on Tuesday.
On 25 May last year, 46-year-old Floyd was stopped on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill for a pack of cigarettes at a corner shop in Minneapolis. As the police were trying to put him in a squad car, the man panicked and pleaded that he was claustrophobic.
The police instead put him on the ground and a video recorded by a teenager showed that former police officer Chauvin, 45, placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for about nine and half minutes, including for several minutes after Floyd’s breathing had stopped and he had no pulse.
In the verdict on Tuesday, the jury found the now-fired officer, who is white, guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He will be sentenced at a separate hearing due to take place in about two months.
Floyd’s death, some six months before the 2020 presidential election, made international headlines and triggered protests across the US with people seeking justice. It was a major milestone in the Black Lives Matter movement and led to protests not just in the US but in several other countries too, including the UK.
The US administration also welcomed the verdict. Kamala Harris, who became the first woman, the first Black person and the first Asian American to become vice president of the US in January, said: “We are all part of George Floyd’s legacy. And now our job is to honor it - to honor him.
“Today’s verdict brings us a step closer to making equal justice under law a reality. But the verdict will not heal pain that has existed for generations. It will not take away the pain felt by the Floyd family. That’s why we must recommit to fight for equal justice,” she tweeted.
Vice president Harris and president Joe Biden called the Floyd family after the guilty verdict.
Recounting Floyd’s words “I can’t breathe”, President Biden said: “Those were George Floyd’s last words. We cannot let them die with him. We have to keep hearing them. We must not turn away. We cannot turn away.
“There’s meaningful police reform legislation in George Floyd’s name, but it shouldn’t take a year to get it done. I assured the Floyd family that we’re going to continue to fight for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act so I can sign it into law right away,” he tweeted.