Tens of thousands of Twitter users tuned in last week to hear the jury’s verdict in Derek Chauvin’s trial for the murder of George Floyd. Streamed live on news accounts such as MSNBC, ABC and CBSnews, the trial that had captured the country’s attention for weeks finally came to a close.
America is no stranger to public trials. Lizzie Borden, Leopoldo and Loeb, Rodney King’s attackers, OJ, Casey Anthony and others had widely publicized trials with highly anticipated verdicts. Chauvin’s trial, however, was the first to be live-streamed, a decision made by the judge to make up for COVID-19 restrictions closing the gallery.
Responses to the verdict—guilty on all charges—varied, ranging from relief and celebration to doubt and skepticism, and Twitter trends reflected this wide scope of reactions.
In fact, mere moments after the judge read the verdict, Twitter’s entire “Trending” sidebar was filled with trial-related hashtags, words, and phrases.
it’s been like 2 minutes and the ENTIRE trending list is filled with things like THANK YOU GOD and ROT IN HELL are trending, good job twitter. pic.twitter.com/PitUtCVUus
— taylor (@iheartlyd) April 20, 2021
I love how ROT IN HELL
THANK YOU GOD
Bail revoked is trending #DerekChauvinTrial this is a bitter sweet justice. It won’t bring George Floyd back but it’s a small step in the right direction pic.twitter.com/KN2u7rqnwY
— Shay’s Portal (@shaysportal1) April 20, 2021
The first to appear were slightly religious. “Praise God,” “Thank you Jesus,” “Thank you God” and “God is good” started trending almost immediately after Chauvin was declared guilty.
I saw the verdict come down with London and Stephanie, a couple visiting BLM Plaza from Pennsylvania. As the judge read them off — guilty, guilty, guilty — London began to weep.
— Marissa J. Lang (@Marissa_Jae) April 20, 2021
GOD is good!!!!!! #JusticeServed
— Dana ✨ (@Danaaakianaaa) April 20, 2021
George Floyd’s life mattered. It mattered to this jury. It mattered to God.
So much more work to do, but so grateful for this moment of justice.
— Joshua DuBois (@joshuadubois) April 20, 2021
For George! Thank you God. Justice is served. pic.twitter.com/5RERYdZvMu
— Ky Duffield (@KyDuffield) April 20, 2021
The obvious #DerekChauvinTrial also trended, as tweeters and commentators used the hashtag to join the online conversation about the trial and verdict.
Guilty on all three counts. My only wish: The jury should have only deliberated for 9 minutes and 28 seconds. #DerekChauvinTrial
— Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram) April 20, 2021
I can’t thank these attorneys enough. Steve Schleicher & Jerry Blackwell. They prosecuted this case PRO BONO. Yes, they waived their fees to bring justice to George Floyd!! Most of the prosecution team worked for free. Thank you 🙏🏾 #DerekChauvinTrial pic.twitter.com/uzpsFpamFT
— Dr. Umar’s second cousin (@spxcecowboi) April 20, 2021
Others used #saytheirnames to remind followers that, although Floyd’s murder and trial received a lot of attention, there are other victims of police brutality that need to be remembered and fought for.
while im so happy for floyd’s family & the fact this has been the first in years we’ve seen justice being served on account of police brutality, breonna taylor & so many other victims still need justice. this shouldn’t be the last time we ever feel like this.#SayTheirNames pic.twitter.com/2lPtGmsYFp
— 🐰💌 ♡ eula brainrot (@yuidraws) April 20, 2021
I hope George Floyd’s family finds some solace, but I do not. He is still dead.
— Dr. Saffista ✊🏾🏳️🌈 (@NYMG_saffista) April 20, 2021
Those following the trial on Twitter also wanted to acknowledge and show gratitude for Darnella Frazier, who was a 17-year-old high school student when she filmed Floyd’s murder and is largely credited for achieving Chauvin’s conviction.
Praise God for Darnella Frazier, the 17 year old who filmed the murder of George Floyd.
Praise God for the verdict, but Floyd should be alive. Jesus bless his family. pic.twitter.com/9OVvoEcWAq
— Jojospencer (@Jojospencer2) April 20, 2021
— Omar Jimenez (@OmarJimenez) April 20, 2021
Most of the chatter online felt jubilant, relieved and grateful, but many were eager to level the emotions by reminding everyone that there is still a lot of work to be done.
It’s a baby step, but a step nonetheless. Thank you God. pic.twitter.com/1Rw6oviXrn
— Muva 👑 (@Creatively_La) April 20, 2021
it aint OVER. but this is a great first step. thank you God.
— DOR🤴🏿 (@doriannlavonn) April 20, 2021
“Accountability” began trending from this sentiment, as tweeters discussed the difference between accountability and justice, and whether this single conviction could be considered accountability at all.
We know that accountability isn’t justice.
Justice would be George Floyd being home with his family, his loved ones, and his community today. pic.twitter.com/nfHuRiKw7h
— ACLU (@ACLU) April 20, 2021
George Floyd’s murder was a terrible tragedy.
No verdict can bring him back or other Black Americans who died from police brutality.
But accountability can be a catalyst for change.
Justice will take time, and the end of systematic racism even longer.
That work goes on.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) April 20, 2021
While today’s guilty verdict was just and right, we cannot mistake accountability for justice. True justice would mean George Floyd was still alive today.
This must be a turning point in our country to reform a broken justice system that has failed Black Americans over and over. pic.twitter.com/cYPSnGznwY
— Sherrod Brown (@SenSherrodBrown) April 20, 2021
I think a lot of folks are misusing “accountability” right now.
Accountability relates to community restoration and justice achieved through mutual agreements and commitments to growth.
One cannot hold murderous systems of oppression “accountable.” We can only abolish them.
— Rubén (@xoxorubenangel) April 20, 2021
These affirmations of the work still left undone reinvigorated #AbolishThePolice and #DefundThePolice, hashtags that had consistently trended during the Black Lives Matter riots that followed Floyd’s death in the spring of 2020.
We shouldn’t have to celebrate the verdict in a trial in which we ALL saw this man murder someone. We shouldn’t have to be relieved. It shouldn’t have been up for debate. WE SAW IT. Save your celebrations. There’s work to do. #AbolishThePolice
— C-Dawg (@Chappells_Show) April 20, 2021
Derek Chauvin is the 7th on-duty cop to be convicted of murder since 2005.
— Police Brutality Tracker Bot (@CopsRBad) April 20, 2021
This guilty verdict is just a respite. We will never have justice until we #AbolishThePolice
— 🔥Jglo🔥✊🏾 (@ChateauSteel) April 20, 2021
No matter the verdict police will not stop killing. Average of 3 people killed by cops EVERY DAY in the US. Not all get headlines or national attention – in fact MOST don’t
No matter the verdict we need to keep organizing, protesting, build the world we deserve. #DefundThePolice
— Joo-Hyun Kang 강주현 (@JooHyun_Kang) April 20, 2021
Rightfully so, George Floyd was at the heart of these online conversations, as users tried to keep in perspective the man whose death started the widespread conversation on racial justice.
Thank you Jesus! I’m in tears. May your legacy live on forever #GeorgeFloyd. 🙏🏽❤️
— Ciara (@ciara) April 20, 2021
But even recognition of Floyd’s legacy sparked disagreement. Many tweeters took issue with the use of the word “sacrifice” to describe Floyd’s death, a term used by Nancy Pelosi in her statement on the verdict.
Speaker Pelosi: “Thank you George Floyd for sacrificing your life for justice … Because of you and because of thousands, millions of people around the world who came out for justice, your name will always be synonymous with justice.”pic.twitter.com/JfapSsKdtX
— The Recount (@therecount) April 20, 2021
Her remark, that Floyd sacrificed himself in the battle for civil rights, evoked language used during the Civil Rights movement to describe participants injured or killed during riots and protests, which many tweeters thought was inaccurate and insensitive to the circumstances of Floyd’s murder.
— Maxwell Little 🇺🇸 (@MaxHPF) April 20, 2021
This is the most tactless (to put it up nicely) thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life
A sacrifice is when someone chose their fate
George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight by a supposedly trained police officer who would’ve gotten away with it if it wasn’t recorded https://t.co/GrM1xPNNBg
— Alew🍑 (@tearjeong) April 20, 2021
Sacrifice (n): “an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.”
Floyd didn’t willfully “give up” his life for justice.
It was taken from him. https://t.co/jvgRm6eeDY
— Andreas Hale (@AndreasHale) April 20, 2021
No. He was MURDERED.
He didn’t sacrifice anything. That implies that he made a choice.
He had no choice.
Chauvin murdered him.
I’m very glad the verdict was just.
But this was NO sacrifice.
— Leia (@TheSWPrincess) April 20, 2021
Suffice it to say, it was a heavy few days on Twitter with emotional ups and downs still being processed by those directly involved in the trial and those who followed from the web. But will Chauvin’s trial be remembered as just another “show trial” with no real change, or will these discussions of justice and accountability for police brutality surface beyond the web?