As the murder trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin took place Monday, George Floyd’s 7-year-old daughter spoke out about the father she will grow up missing.
Gianna Floyd told ABC News that the one thing she wants the world to know is the type of father Floyd was.
“He was kind and he was nice to my momma all the time,” Gianna said, sitting next to her mother, Roxie Washington.
Washington said it has been 307 days since Floyd died while in custody for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill buy cigarettes, and ever since, she has had to be both mother and father to her little girl.
“We were friends. He told me everything. We would talk,” Washington said of Floyd. “He always said that I made him the man that he was. But I think it was kind of vice versa: he made me into the woman that I am. I’ve always been like stand up. But the heart that he had, you know, he just had a good heart.”
The mother and daughter spoke with ABC News shortly after Floyd’s brothers, other relatives, the family’s lawyers and hundreds of supporters gathered outside the Hennepin County Courthouse for a news conference before entering the courthouse for the start of the high-profile trial.
Led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, the group joined together in an act they said symbolizes the torture their loved one endured — taking a collective knee and counting down the minutes Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, knelt on the back of Floyd’s neck.
At 8:46 a.m., the family knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds before entering the heavily-guarded courthouse for the first day of Chauvin’s trial.
The time was symbolic of how long authorities initially said Chauvin, who is white, had his knee on Floyd’s neck as the 46-year-old Black man repeatedly cried out “I can’t breathe” and begged for his dead mother before going unconscious.
George Floyd’s sister, Bridgett Floyd, spoke to ABC News Monday evening and shared why she refused to watch opening statements.
“I am not ready to see the video of my brother being murdered,” she said.
She also weighed in on the defense’s argument that drugs found in her brother’s system caused his death.
“They would find any way possible for this police officer to not look bad. But, the whole world saw what happened to him,” she said. “The drugs that they say they found in his system did not kill him… [it] was the pressure that was kneeled down in his neck. It’s not surprising to me but one thing’s for sure… the world [has] seen how my brother left this world.”
“Chauvin had George Floyd down. It had to be intentional. That’s the case we make. With that taking of the knee, the family goes in this court seeking justice for all of us in America,” Sharpton said.
Ben Crump, an attorney for the Floyd family, called the Chauvin trial a “referendum if we’re going to continue to have two justice systems in America — one for white America and one for Black America.”
“The goal today is equal justice for the United States of America,” Crump said.
The tense scene outside the courthouse came just minutes before Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill swore in the jury and opening statements got underway in the case that has drawn attention from around the world and prompted protests across the nation.
In his opening statement on Monday, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell alleged that Chauvin actually had his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck for longer than 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Blackwell said Chauvin dug his knee into Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, long enough to cause Floyd’s death as a result of oxygen deficiency.
But Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, said in his opening statement the evidence in the case is “far greater than 9 minutes and 29 seconds” and implored the jury to consider all the evidence.
Floyd’s brothers spoke at the news conference, telling people they are bracing for Chauvin’s defense attorney to attempt to denigrate their brother’s reputation to make it seem that he was at fault in his own death on May 25, 2020.
“It’s cold out here, but the heat is on,” said Philonise Floyd. “The state of Minneapolis, Minnesota, they will have to make the right decision. They can’t sweep this under the rug.”
He mentioned other Black people killed by law enforcement, including Philando Castile, a 32-year-old African American shot to death in 2016 during a traffic stop in a suburb of Minneapolis, and Eric Garner, a New York City Black man who died in 2014 after being placed in an illegal chokehold by a police officer.
Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, stood near Philonise Floyd as he spoke.
“One thing I can tell you is we will get justice,” he said. “If we can’t get justice for a Black man here in America, we will get justice everywhere else in America. This is a starting point. This is not a finishing point.”
Meanwhile, Derreck Johnson, the president and CEO of the NAACP, released a statement on Monday expressing hope that “justice must prevail.”
“George Floyd is not on trial. Derek Chauvin is on trial, justice is on trial, human rights are on trial, and the right to breathe is on trial,” Johnson’s statement reads. “Derek Chauvin will have the opportunity to tell his side of the story, a luxury that was not afforded to George Floyd. George Floyd was murdered. But his sacrifice will never be silenced.”