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Crowds Erupt, Leaders React As Chauvin Found Guilty Of George Floyd Murder

Nervous crowds awaiting a verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin have erupted in jubilation after a jury found the former Minneapolis police officer guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

In George Floyd Square, the traffic intersection named after the 46-year-old black man who died with his neck pinned to the street under Chauvin's knee, throngs of people screamed, cheered and applauded at the news of the guilty verdict.

The square has become a place of pilgrimage and protest since Floyd's death made him the face of a national reckoning with racial injustice and police brutality.

Floyd's dying words, "I can't breathe", were recalled in street demonstrations against his killing that convulsed the United States and the world last year in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

"I can breathe," said Lynea Bellfield, a 43-year-old black woman who joined a festive celebration in the square. "It feels like the beginning of something special. I had to bring my grandsons to see it."\

A 12-member jury found Chauvin, 45, guilty of all three charges against him: second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter, after hearing three weeks of testimony and deliberating for just over 10 hours. Chauvin was quickly led away from the courtroom in handcuffs after the verdict was read.

The trial outcome brought cheering people to the streets and motorists honking their horns in a number of major US cities, including Washington and New York.

The announcement also brought elation to crowds gathered outside the Hennepin County courthouse where the trial was held.

Tears rolled down the face of Chris Dixon, a 41-year-old black Minneapolis resident, as he took the verdict in.

"I was hoping that we would get justice, and it looks like we did," he said. "I'm just very proud of where I live right now."

Image: AAP.

Many of those celebrating the verdict said their joy was tempered, however, by the tragedy of Floyd's death and awareness that racial inequality remains deeply embedded in American society.

Authorities in Minnesota and elsewhere had braced for the possibility of an outpouring of rage had the jury acquitted Chauvin or deadlocked in a mistrial.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz on Monday declared a pre-emptive state of emergency for the Minneapolis metropolitan area and requested security assistance from other states.

Many businesses in Chicago boarded up their windows, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that imposes tougher penalties for people found to have engaged in violent protests.

REACTION TO GUILTY VERDICT

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN:

"I can't breathe." 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. This can be a moment of significant change.

No one should be above the law. Today's verdict extends that message, but it is not enough. We can't stop here.

Joe Biden speaks in the Cross Hall of the White House after the verdict. Image: Getty.

PHILONISE FLOYDGEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER:

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're able to breathe.' Today, we are able to breathe again.

DANIEL MEACHUM, LAWYER FOR ROXIE WASHINGTON, THE MOTHER OF FLOYD'S ONLY CHILD, GIANNA FLOYD:

There is no jury verdict that could possibly construct or suture the internal void that Gianna will continue to carry for the rest of her life, however when she stated that her daddy changed the world, this verdict will serve as a pointed and remarkable source for her to relish and find that her daddy did in fact change the world.

FORMER US PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA AND MICHELLE OBAMA:

Today, a jury did the right thing. But true justice requires much more. Michelle and I send our prayers to the Floyd family, and we stand with all those who are committed to guaranteeing every American the full measure of justice that George and so many others have been denied.

Barack and Michelle Obama at Joe Biden's presidential inauguration in January. Image: Getty.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER US SECRETARY OF STATE AND DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:

George Floyd's family and community deserved for his killer to be held accountable. Today, they got that accountability. Always and forever, black lives matter.

MINNESOTA GOVERNOR TIM WALZ:

Today's verdict is an important step forward for justice in Minnesota. The trial is over, but our work has only begun.

Thousands of Minnesotans marched in the streets last summer in the wake of his death - inspiring a movement around the globe. While many of these people never met George, they valued his humanity. They knew what happened was wrong. They called for change, and they demanded justice.

AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION:

For the first time in Minnesota state history, a white police officer has been held accountable for killing a black man. While today's verdict is a small win for police accountability and may help heal a grieving community, the systems that allowed George to be murdered - ripping him away from his family and the communities that loved him so much - remain fully intact.

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE:

Justice has prevailed in the case against #GeorgeFloyds killer #DerekChauvin, but the work is not done! We must keep fighting to end qualified immunity, and we must get #PoliceReformNOW.

MARTIN LUTHER KING III

Justice has been served for the Floyd family. But no conviction can replace the life of George Floyd or the countless other unarmed Black Americans who have died at the hands of police. Police brutality stems from a justice system that is deeply rooted in racism, a system that must be completely changed in order for us to reach true justice.

NATIONAL FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE:

The trial was fair and due process was served. We hope and expect that all of our fellow citizens will respect the rule of law and remain peaceful tonight and in the days to come.

UK PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON:

I was appalled by the death of George Floyd and welcome this verdict. My thoughts tonight are with George Floyd's family and friends.

Reuters and AP via AAP.