The conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd resonated globally, with foreign dignitaries and community leaders reacting to a verdict that revived calls for an international reckoning on racial inequality in justice systems around the world.
Chauvin, who is white, was found guilty Tuesday of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd, a Black man he pinned down outside a grocery store last year.
Foreign media outlets ran live coverage, showing how the trial resonated far beyond its national context, and highlighting the outsized role the U.S. racial justice conversation plays internationally as the rest of the world is forced to grapple with its own race relations.
“I got messages from all over the world – Ghana, London – saying we can’t breathe until you can breathe,” said George Floyd’s brother Philonise. “Well, today we are able to breathe again. Justice for George means freedom for all.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that he “was appalled by the death of George Floyd and welcome this verdict,” while the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, simply wrote “justice.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted that the verdict itself won’t heal the pain of loss for Floyd’s family, which reverberated around the world. “The guilty verdict must be the beginning of real change – not the end.”
The ruling made the front pages of several British dailies on Wednesday – including The Times of London and The Daily Telegraph.
“Guilty, Guilty, Guilty,” read the front cover of The Metro, while The Daily Mail asked “Now can George Floyd verdict bring peace to America’s race turmoil?”
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed the verdict but said it “underlines that there’s an awful lot of work to do.”
Floyd’s killing proved to be a moment of reckoning not only in the United States but across the world, as protesters took to the streets calling for justice in his case and pointing to what they saw as parallels in their own communities. In Britain last year, they chanted for Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old who was shot by police during his attempted arrest in 2011. In France, they said the name Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old who died in police custody in 2016.
In Japan, crowds last year gathered in Osaka holding signs that read “Black lives matter” while in Germany protesters took to the streets of Berlin holding up placards that said “white silence is violence,” and “I can’t breathe.”
Foreign news outlets featured prominent coverage of the verdict on their websites, with the Australian Broadcasting Corp. running live coverage and French newspaper Le Monde featuring it at the top of its website.
In Australia, where Floyd’s death last year spurred a resurgence in activism over Indigenous people’s deaths in custody, the guilty verdict led to fresh calls for authorities to scrutinize more than 400 Aboriginal deaths in custody, along with a painful realization that such a conviction would be unlikely there.
“Even [compared to] somewhere like America that is seen as Ground Zero for police brutality, Australia is less accountable to the brutality of its prison and police officers,” said Latoya Aroha Rule, who lost a brother, Wayne Fella Morrison, in 2016 after he was pinned down by seven correctional officers and placed facedown in the back of a prison van, his hands and feet bound with restraints and a spit-hood pulled over his head. An inquest into his death begins next week.
“An outcome like George Floyd’s case is not possible for our case,” said Rule, who helped organize Black Lives Matter rallies in cities across Australia last year. “It took more than a year and a very long history of civil rights advocacy to get to this point, to charge one officer for one murder. But it does only take one injustice sometimes, when people choose to act. I have to remain hopeful this will have some implication in the global racial violence and injustice movement.”
On Twitter, people also pointed to the case of David Dungay Jr., a 26-year-old Aboriginal man who died in similar circumstances in a Sydney correctional facility in 2015 after being restrained by five prison guards in his cell.
Video footage aired at a subsequent inquest showed Dungay telling the guards who were pinning him to his bed “I can’t breathe” at least 12 times. The inquest didn’t recommend disciplinary action against the guards.
The effort to connect George Floyd’s death to racial justice issues around the world has faced resistance from some leaders. In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other conservative lawmakers blamed last year’s protests on fringe groups they said were using the U.S. protests to stoke divisions. Morrison’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment on the verdict.
Even as many around the world welcomed the verdict, a top police official in Australia’s most populous state appeared on television and radio decrying a Sydney school for allowing anti-police and Black Lives Matter posters in classrooms, calling it “indoctrination” and maintaining there was no “race problem” in Australia.
“The racist rants . . . lines about how white lives don’t matter or they matter too much; this is the sort of racism that gets the United States into trouble. It has got no place in Australia,” said David Elliott, the New South Wales police minister.