In 2020, a lengthy video clip of a police officer kneeling on a black man's neck until he passed away had gone viral. While the Black Lives Matter movement has existed for quite some time now, George Floyd's death garnered international attention, sparking off protests in various countries. Nearly a year later, in April 2021, the fired white officer - Derek Chauvin - was convicted on second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges.
Celebrations broke out in various parts of the US and beyond on Friday after the former cop was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison for Floyd's murder. The sentence fell short of the 30 years prosecutors had requested. And with good behavior, Chauvin, 45, could get out on parole after serving two-thirds of his sentence, or about 15 years. Chauvin also faces an upcoming federal civil rights trial, the results of which could add to his sentence.
Judge Peter Cahill went beyond the 12 1/2-year sentence prescribed under state guidelines, citing Chauvin's "abuse of a position of trust and authority and also the particular cruelty" shown to Floyd.
The punishment - which came after Chauvin broke his yearlong silence to offer condolences to the Floyd family and express hope that they eventually have "some peace of mind" - is one of the longest prison terms ever imposed on a US police officer in the killing of a Black person. At the same time, going by public opinion, it is "not enough".
Floyd family members, protesters and countless others online were disappointed by the sentence. And while some cheered, others cursed in disgust, wondering whether the sentence was long enough. "Just because it's the most time doesn't mean it's enough time," said Minneapolis protest leader Nekima Levy Armstrong.
Floyd's nephew Brandon Williams said the sentence was insufficient, "when you think about George being murdered, in cold blood with a knee on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds execution-style in broad daylight." LaTonya Floyd, George Floyd's sister, said of the punishment: "That's nothing. That's nothing. He should have got the max, period."
Twitter users seem to concur. Over the last few hours, the phrase "Not enough" has become a trending topic on the microblogging platform, with many railing against the situation.
"The man stood on another man’s neck in full view of witnesses for nine minutes, killing him. Is there a reason why he didn’t get the max 40 years?" read one outraged post.
"Sickening that Derek Chauvin, a white cop who’s shown no remorse, gets 22.5 years but may only serve 15 years with good behavior for murdering George Floyd - while Willie Simmons, a Black Army vet, is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for stealing $9," countered another.
But even amid the outcry, many acknowledged that while this might seem inadequate, it is also a rather rare occurrence. Till date, the list of cases wherein officers accused of brutality or other misconduct against Black people have gone to trial and been sentenced remains rather short. The list of acquittals and mistrials, in contrast, is far longer.
"22.5 years To Derek Chauvin some people will say not enough some will say too much. I however say this is the start of actual accountability. Let’s ride on that wave for a while," summed up one user.