Twitter Explained | Did We Just Get Justice for George Floyd?

George Floyd

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. 

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.  

The obvious #DerekChauvinTrial also trended, as tweeters and commentators used the hashtag to join the online conversation about the trial and verdict. 

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. 

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.

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. 

“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. 

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.  

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. 

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. 

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. 

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?

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