On eve of Chauvin trial, hundreds march through downtown Minneapolis to call for justice

“I Can’t Breathe” Silent March for Justice
Cortez Rice (left) and Raj Sethuraju carry a casket during the “I Can’t Breathe” Silent March for Justice in downtown Minneapolis on Sunday -- the eve of the scheduled start of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd.
Kerem Yücel for MPR News

Hundreds of people marched through downtown Minneapolis on Sunday afternoon, calling for justice a day before the start of the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer for the killing of George Floyd.

Jury selection in the trial of Derek Chauvin is set to begin on Monday at the Hennepin County Government Center.

“I Can’t Breathe” Silent March for Justice
Shzaneace Peterson-Gaulden (lower right) joins other marchers in carrying a banner with the names of people who died in encounters with police, during the “I Can’t Breathe” Silent March for Justice in downtown Minneapolis on Sunday.
Kerem Yücel for MPR News

Sunday's marchers gathered outside the building, which is now surrounded by fencing and barricades. Pallbearers carried a symbolic casket, and a roll of names of people who have died in encounters with police.

Some carried portraits of Floyd, and a large banner that read "I CAN'T BREATHE!" Floyd was detained by Minneapolis police officers last May; he died after one officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck for about nine minutes.

In addition to the silent march organized by the Racial Justice Network, Sunday's event in Minneapolis included a prayer gathering organized by the group Pray for MN.

Presiding elder Stacey Smith, local head of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, led a prayer. She said a hope for peace is in her heart as the trial begins.

"We want our city to be OK. We want the people to be OK. We would like to see, really, a unified city come back together," she said. "We've been so separated and distracted and all of these things — but I would really like to see us become Minnesota again. That's what I'm really praying for today."

“I Can’t Breathe” Silent March for Justice
Presiding elder Stacey Smith, local head of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and part of the group Pray for MN, speaks outside the Hennepin County Government Center during the “I Can’t Breathe” Silent March for Justice in downtown Minneapolis on Sunday.
Kerem Yücel for MPR News

Rebecca Traviss of Minneapolis participated in the march with her son, daughter and niece.

"As a mother who's got four mixed kids, and a handful of nieces and nephews that are mixed, I think about my kids and things I've had to say to them about being aware of their surroundings and going outside at night. I never thought in my life that I would have to say stuff like that to my kids, just because of the color of their skin," she said.

More protests are planned for Monday as the Chauvin trial begins. A coalition of more than 20 groups are planning to gather outside the courthouse at 8 a.m.

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