Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22½ years in prison Friday for the murder of George Floyd, an outcome that wouldn’t have been possible without sustained mob pressure, various activists and attorneys admitted.
Floyd’s May 25, 2020 death kicked off the worst period of destruction in Minnesota history and gave new life to the Black Lives Matter cause in the Twin Cities. Since Floyd’s death, riots have become a regular occurrence throughout the metro area as activists have embraced the controversial tactic of protesting outside the private homes of county prosecutors, police officers, and politicians.
This behavior wasn’t put on hold while Chauvin’s murder trial played out. In fact, it was aggravated by the April 11 shooting of Daunte Wright, whose death resulted in a 10-night standoff outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department and prompted threats to the jury from a U.S. congresswoman.
All of this was instrumental in Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill’s decision to send the veteran officer to prison for 22 years, some admitted at a press conference following Friday’s sentencing.
“Justice would have been the maximum. We got more than we thought, only because we have been disappointed so many times before,” said Rev. Al Sharpton. “Let us remember: a man lost his life. This is not a prayer of celebration; it’s a prayer to thank God for giving the strength to this family and those activists that stayed in the streets to make sure this court had to do what was right.”
Attorney Ben Crump, who represented the Floyd family in their civil case, thanked the “millions of Americans who raised their voice.”
“You all raised your voices and because you raised your voices, that is why we got the guilty conviction and that is why we got the longest sentence in the state of Minnesota history,” he said.
Jeff Storms, a Minneapolis-based attorney who assisted Crump’s team, directly addressed the activists gathered outside the courthouse.
“Without all of you, we don’t have the energy for that fight right here. We need you all to keep turning out and we appreciate it because it’s allowed the Floyd family to get the most historic justice we’ve ever seen, but it’s not enough,” he said.
Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office led the prosecution, published a call to action in the Washington Post, thanking activists for putting “pressure” on the system.
“It is imperative that communities keep up the pressure for reform and accountability, and finally end the cycle of inaction,” he wrote. “My office could not have led the prosecution of Chauvin without the help of ordinary people who courageously bore witness to Floyd’s death, and the pressure from a community that demanded accountability and action.”
This kind of “pressure” resulted in the resignation of the lead prosecutor in the case against Kim Potter, the officer charged with killing Wright.
“They spread misinformation, by spreading lies, by using intimidation, by using bullying, you know, that’s not the way we do things,” said Imran Ali, who resigned from the Washington County Attorney’s Office late last month.
“It’s not the way the justice system should work for anyone who’s been accused of a crime,” he added. “Our criminal justice system is almost at siege. It’s eroding — the very basis of equal protection for all, due process.”
Judge Cahill insisted that his sentence was not based on “emotion or sympathy,” but many have raised questions about whether it was possible for Chauvin to receive a fair trial.
Another common talking point being pushed by the left is the claim that Chauvin’s sentence does not represent “real justice.” Some called his 22-year sentence “crumbs” and “a slap on the wrist.”
“Like the conviction of Derek Chauvin two months ago, today’s sentencing is not justice, but it is another moment of real accountability on the road to justice,” Ellison said at a press conference. “The outcome of this case is critically important, but by itself it’s not enough.”