Who was George Floyd, the new symbol of fight against racism?

Minneapolis, United States: His name has been chanted by protesters all over the world, and his portrait has appeared on murals around the United States.

George Floyd has come to represent Black victims of police brutality and racism in the United States since his violent death.

Floyd's murderer, white former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, was convicted of murder on Tuesday in a case that sparked a moral reckoning on race and white supremacy far beyond America's borders.

Floyd "was a big guy, he was too big for this earth," his three-year ex-girlfriend Courteney Ross told reporters shortly before the verdict was read. "Right now, he's all over us."

When asked how he would have reacted to the verdict, Ross said Floyd would have argued that "now is the time for us to come together."

Floyd, 46, died on May 25, 2020, under Chauvin's knee in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The crime was captured on a cell phone, and Floyd's last agonizing minutes were shown around the world – and repeatedly shown to the trial jury.

The heinous murder, which sparked the largest civil rights demonstrations in the United States since the 1960s, ended a life marked by adversity but also kindness.

Floyd, who stood six feet four inches (1.93 meters) tall, was described to friends and family as a "gentle giant," a rapper and athlete who had run-ins with the law and struggled with addiction but wanted the best for his children.

His mother, for whom he cried as he died, moved to Houston shortly after he was born in North Carolina in 1973.

He grew up in Houston's Third Ward, a low-income, mainly African-American neighborhood.

"We didn't have a whole lot, but we always had each other," his cousin Shareeduh Tate said during a memorial gathering last year in Minneapolis.

He acted as a big brother to many of the local boys at Jake Yates High School.

"He was teaching us how to be a man because he was in the world already before us," his younger brother Philonise, who testified last week at the trial, said at the 2020 memorial.

George Floyd was a standout on the football field and a standout on the basketball court when he went to college.

"He was a monster on the court," said Philonise. "But in life, in general, talking to people, a gentle giant."

'Deficiencies' and 'flaws' 

He dropped out of college and returned to Houston to assist his relatives.

In the 1990s, he threw himself into Houston's hip-hop circuit as "Big Floyd," where he had some success.

He was unable to avoid the brutality of Houston's underworld and was arrested multiple times for robbery and drug trafficking. According to local papers, he was sentenced to four years in prison for armed robbery in the early 2000s.

Following his release from jail, he turned to religion and became involved with the pastor of a church in the Third Ward, where he used his celebrity and love of basketball star LeBron James to attract young men to the ministry, where he taught them religion and coached them in basketball.

Floyd relocated to Minneapolis in 2014 for a "change of scenery" and to find more secure jobs to support the mother of his newborn daughter Gianna.

He started as a Salvation Army truck driver and then as a bouncer at a pub, which he lost when the city's restaurants closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"I got my shortcomings and my flaws, and I ain't better than nobody else," Floyd wrote on Instagram in 2017.

"But, man, the shootings that are going on, man, I don't care what religion you're from, man, or where you're at, man. I love you, and God loves you, man. Put the guns down, man."

Providing justice 

Ross, Floyd's girlfriend, testified that both she and Floyd suffered from drug abuse when attempting to relieve chronic pain.

"We got addicted and tried really hard to break that addiction, many times," she told the court.

Floyd purchased a pack of cigarettes from a Minneapolis shop on May 25. The shopkeeper accused him of using a forged $20 bill and reported him to the police.

Floyd, who had taken the strong opiate fentanyl, was involved in a struggle with the police.

Floyd was handcuffed and pushed face down on the ground, while Chauvin used his knee to pin him to the ground.

In the video of his murder, he can be heard pleading for his mother and for help. "I can't breathe," he said as he died.

He was buried in Houston in June, next to his mother Larcenia, who died in 2018 and had the nickname "Cissy" tattooed on his face.

Floyd's murder site in Minneapolis has become a flower-covered de facto shrine.

Floyd is survived by his six-year-old daughter Gianna, who said last June: "Daddy changed the world."

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