Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been sentenced to 22.5 years in prison for the murder of George Floyd, whose death sparked the largest protest against racial injustice in the United States since the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s and bloomed into a global movement for racial equality.
The sentencing fell short of the 30 years that prosecutors had requested. With good behavior, Chauvin, 45, could be paroled after serving two-thirds of his sentence, about 15 years.
Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for holding his knee against Floyd’s neck for 9.5 minutes as the 46-year-old Black man gasped that he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin was arresting Floyd on suspicion of a counterfeit $20 bill.
A video of the arrest went viral, causing cities around the world to erupt in protest of racial injustice and police brutality. After months of petitions, Chauvin was convicted in April, and advocates considered it a win for the movement. However, many consider the sentencing to be one small step in a longer journey to racial equality.
Bridgett Floyd, sister of George Floyd and founder of the George Floyd Memorial Foundation, said the sentence was only a step in the right direction.
“The sentence handed down today to the Minneapolis police officer who killed my brother George Floyd shows that matters of police brutality are finally being taken seriously,” she said. “However, we have a long way to go and many changes to make before Black and Brown people finally feel like they are being treated fairly and humanely by law enforcement in this country.”
At the sentencing, Floyd’s daughter Gianna spoke to the courtroom, as did Floyd’s brothers Terrence and Philonise, who said their family had “been given a life sentence” for having to live without George. Additionally, Chauvin’s mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, addressed the courtroom on his behalf, saying her son “is a good man.”
The trial of Derek Chauvin will go down in history as one a landmark battle in the fight for racial equality and equity. Chauvin is the first white officer in Minnesota to face prison time for killing a Black man, according to Minnesota Public Radio. Minnesota attorney general released a statement at the end of the sentencing, urging law enforcement officers to use this case as a reminder that they are not above the law. “By bringing accountability in law enforcement, you actually promote public safety,” he said.