LONDON — Millions around the world watched the verdict as Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer, was found guilty of causing the death of George Floyd on Tuesday.
Floyd’s death last summer sparked a global outcry and eruption of widespread demonstrations from London to Paris and beyond in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and against police brutality.
“My heart was thudding as I was waiting for the verdict to come in,” said Sofia Akel, 26, who watched the judgment live on television in southeast London with her partner, while exchanging messages with her family.
Akel, who is mixed race Black with Irish, Sene-Gambian and Moroccan heritage, said she didn’t watch the three-week trial as she found it “too traumatic” and “voyeuristic” but welcomed the jury’s decision.
“It was a mixture of relief and sadness because the guilty verdict isn’t justice, justice would be Black lives mattering in America and abroad,” she told NBC News.
Floyd’s death also led to uncomfortable social reckonings between political and business leaders and citizens, as public conversations scrutinized the legacy of European colonialism and modern-day race relations.
“Holding one person to account, whilst absolutely necessary, doesn’t dismantle the whole system that enables this behavior in the first place and enables white supremacy,” said Akel, who took part in protests with friends in London last summer following the viral video of Floyd’s death.
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In Cairo, watching the verdict with his roommates, Momodou Taal, 27, said he’d received a stream of messages from Black friends around the world saying they were nervous to tune in.
“The whole world was watching it,” he said of the verdict. “I breathed for like a second but for me I don’t see that as justice,” he added.
“Justice for me would be George Floyd still living.”
It also hadn’t escaped international attention that a young Black girl was killed in Ohio on the same day as the verdict, Taal said, adding that Black people globally were “exhausted.”
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In a more muted tone than last summer, the Chauvin verdict filled newspapers and broadcasts in France, Germany, Japan and elsewhere. A handful of world leaders also publicly welcomed the decision.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hailed the “accountability” of the verdict.
“Make no mistake, systemic racism and anti-Black racism still exist. And they exist in Canada, too. Our work must and will continue,” he tweeted.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the Parliament on Wednesday his thoughts were with Floyd’s family and said the verdict had “delivered justice.”
Earlier this month, an official U.K. report into racial inequality — which was ordered in the wake of Floyd’s death — provoked fury from critics who deemed it a “whitewash” and triggered fresh anger and demands for change.
In Birmingham, central England, Kehinde Andrews, an author and professor of Black studies, watched the Chauvin verdict online and said although it was positive, it provided no cause for joy.
“It’s what was supposed to happen. Are we really supposed to be celebrating?” he said, calling the video footage of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck “open and shut” evidence.
Andrews said Floyd’s case was “exceptional” in the amount of footage obtained and global condemnation received but added, ultimately, the verdict didn’t “represent any significant change.”
“I’m worried Black people around the world will be relieved — of all the outcomes that would be the worst,” he said. “Really we should be protesting just as much as before because the same issues are there.”
In Asia, the Chauvin verdict gave hope to those facing racial discrimination, said Pimsiri Petchnamrob, 36, a human rights activist from Bangkok.
“At least we see that in the U.S. justice system, something works unlike in this region,” she said, referencing cases of police brutality against ethnic minorities in Myanmar, southern Thailand and Malaysia.
Petchnamrob said the American verdict gave momentum to the global need to make societies more equal and “fight for justice altogether.”
Meanwhile in France, Ethan Craunot, 22, a tech worker in Paris, said he followed the highlights of the trial and the verdict on social media and called it a “historic decision” but warned against other nations drawing parallels with America.
“It’s a great decision, it’s the right decision for that society as a whole but I don’t think we should try to project America’s problems onto other countries,” he said. “I hope we can understand that the situation in America is not the same everywhere and different problems need different solutions.”
Craunot called the case an inherently “American story” and said “while there is some systemic racism in France, it’s just not as developed or as blatant as in the U.S.”
But Assa Traoré, 36, whose brother Adama Traoré died in police custody in France in 2016, disagreed and said there was still “deep racism” in the country and lessons to be learned from the U.S. decision.
“This verdict naturally hits home with me and my affair concerning the death of my little brother who died exactly in the same conditions as George Floyd, who said the same last words: ‘I can’t breathe,'” she said.
“For me, what happened in the United States, it’s a bearer of hope for change and that’s going to strengthen me in the combat to find justice for my brother,” she added. “More than ever, we will not give up.”