Even before the verdict came in, the Derek Chauvin murder trial dominated social media throughout much of Tuesday. Chauvin is the former Minneapolis police officer who was charged, and now convicted in the death of George Floyd last May.
Within minutes of the verdict being announced Twitter exploded with multiple hashtags quickly trending. These included #DerekChauvinTrial, #GUILTY, #SayHisName, #BlackLivesMatter and #ThankYouGod. Additionally, “Count 1,” “Accountability” and “ROT IN HELL” as well as “BAIL REVOKED” were also trending following the verdict’s announcement.
Within minutes, each of the hashtags had tens of thousands of tweets, where users expressed their feelings that justice was in fact served. Many in the media went a little further than just reporting the news.
CBS News reporter/producer JC Whittington (@JCWhittington_) wrote, “Chauvin faces a potential for up to 40 years in jail. Straight to jail, no bail.”
“Derek Chauvin found guilty of all three charges in the murder of George Floyd THANK YOU GOD He’s going to ROT IN HELL Now we need Justice for Breonna Taylor,” offered multimedia journalist David Leavitt (@David_Leavitt).
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Los Angeles Times editorial page editor Sewell Chan (@sewellchan) recapped the verdict posting, “Guilty on all counts, his bail revoked, Officer Derek Chauvin was led away in handcuffs, remanded to the Hennepin County sheriff to await sentencing. The end of one of the most consequential trials in modern US history.”
Justice For George
It was clear that the majority of those posting not only agreed with the verdict, but were even gleeful.
“‘Bail revoked and remanded’ Such beautiful words. #GUILTY,” wrote Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab (@saragoldrickrab), professor of sociology & medicine.
Many also vented their frustration by mocking the former police officer. A number of memes trended alongside “ROT IN HELL” on Tuesday and some including the added hashtag #ripbozo.
ROT IN HELL had more than 70,000 tweets within the hour of the verdict being read, while there were nearly 35,000 tweets that praised Darnella Fraizer, the young woman who filmed the incident that led to the death of George Floyd last May.
All About Accountability
There were also many on social media who discussed “Accountability,” in reference to greater calls for police accountability following not only the death of Floyd, but other people of color at the hands of police across the country in recent years.
Many politicians who weren’t even from Minnesota took the time to issue their thoughts on the matter.
Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey (@SenBooker) posted, “Justice is served. Accountability for George Floyd’s murder is important & necessary. But it’s not enough—we still must fix this deeply broken system. Today I’m thinking about George Floyd’s family, his daughter & his loved ones as they continue to mourn this unspeakable loss.”
“Justice is George Floyd still being alive today. But today’s verdict is one small step toward accountability. I hope it brings some measure of peace to George Floyd’s family. #BlackLivesMatter, today and always,” suggested Rep. Brenda Lawrence (@RepLawrence), (D-Mich.)
Rep. Chuy Garcia (@RepChuyGarcia) (D-Illinois) wrote, “The trial against Derek Chauvin was never about justice but accountability. Today’s verdict is proof that no one is above the law. We can and MUST prosecute acts of violence by the cops. George Floyd should be alive today. For George and many others, the fight continues.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) added, “The verdicts delivered today were a powerful statement of accountability. But while I’m grateful that the jury returned this verdict, accountability is not the same as justice. Our charge now is to channel this moment to make real, positive, and long-overdue change happen.”
Of course in the case of Cuomo he may have wished he didn’t respond as many pushed back at the embattled governor.
Crime And Punishment
Also trending on Tuesday was the issue of the maximum sentence that Chauvin may face, and clearly many felt that his eventual punishment may not fit the crime.
“Here’s the problem: He can cut any of these sentences down with good behavior. This is not a life sentence, therefore, he will get out eventually. I feel this is a false victory,” wrote @RazzberryBaz.
That sentiment was shared by MSNBC’s Chris Jansing (@ChrisJansing), “Bail is revoked. Chauvin will be sentenced in 8 weeks. Those who loved George Floyd still have a life sentence of being without him.”
Rare Sign Of Social Media Unity
There were few that expressed their displeasure over the verdict on social media on Tuesday afternoon.
“Regarding responses to the verdict on social media, a couple of issues are in play,” said technology industry analyst Charles King of Pund-IT. “First and foremost, the evidence against Chauvin, particularly the video of him murdering George Floyd, was simply overwhelming. Plus, Chauvin’s cavalier attitude toward Floyd’s condition suggested that his actions were racially based or motivated.
“In other words, Chauvin was caught exhibiting the sort of behavior you’d expect from a vicious thug, not a sworn officer of the law,” added King. “So it’s unsurprising that even voices that might offer Chauvin support in other circumstances are fairly muted. At least in public.”
And it this could be sign that the country could be moving towards addressing the issue of police accountability, and based on the reactions on social media it is likely something law enforcement and law makers may take seriously.
“This was a transformative moment in American culture,” explained Dr. Matthew J. Schmidt, PhD, associate professor of political science at the University of New Haven.
“It is the beginning of real change in our country – this was the first time you have an entire country waiting to hear the verdict of a white police officer accused of killing a black man,” added Schmidt. “What is important to consider is that when you look at the storyline for the past 200 years, it was always a black man who may have been rightfully or wrongfully accused. We have waited for those verdicts and now it was switched. As a result we’ve seen the community come together. It is really flipping the story.”
Even with other recent events, there were usually two sides on social media – where two sides would dig in with their own battle lines, but this wasn’t the case in Tuesday’s verdict. While there are likely some who felt that the officer acted accordingly and agreed with the defense, they certainly didn’t take to social media.
Perhaps it was that they would be so easily outnumbered, but Dr. Schmidt saw it otherwise. “It is because the culture has changed.”