Asheville – By J. W. Morrissey
On Friday, June 25, Derek Chauvin, the Minnesota police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd in a widely publicized incident last spring, was sentenced by Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill, who also presided over the trial, to 22 ½ years in state prison. Due to Minnesota law, Chauvin, with good behavior, could end up serving about 15 years, 2/3rds of his sentence. The murder of George Floyd was a stunning blow to a nation already grappling with racial tensions on the rise from other highly publicized officer-involved killings of persons of color. Calls for defunding police departments, more transparency and justice rang out as riots tore through city after city across the nation, sparking division and conversations alike.
These conversations were heard in the streets of Asheville where a melting pot of ideas and beliefs grew over the last several years. Inevitably, different perspectives and points of view come face to face with each other. In the same streets where protestors clashed with each other, people are discussing what they’d like to see come next.
Drew Bayer, from Mooresville, NC, shared his feelings, “We should be more open with each other. We should listen to what everyone has to say instead of just immediately assuming we know what someone is about [because of their political affiliation].”
In the aftermath of the 2020 riots, a controversial election in November and the menacing protest at the Capitol, Mr. Bayers sentiment could come across as a radical idea. Standing in Pack Square, so close to the dismantled Vance monument, that sentiment is magnified.
The sentencing of Derek Chauvin may have put an end to the legal proceedings, but the controversy rages on.
“We got justice, but not enough justice,” Floyd’s cousin Brandon Williams told the media, “Twenty-two years is not enough…I won’t celebrate this. I won’t celebrate it at all, but I will celebrate a guilty conviction of a police officer that killed a Black man. This 22 and a half years just doesn’t work for me.”
Gerald E, an Asheville native, had his own take on the sentence “There isn’t any amount of time that is comparable to a human life.” He likes the idea of kindness and grace, “If we focus too much on one incident we could lose an opportunity to learn.” He doesn’t think that it’s the amount of time Chauvin spends in prison that’s important. Rather, it’s if he uses that time to better himself. Only time can answer that.
Looking back at May of 2020, it’s easy to feel like it’s more than a year ago when the video of Derek Chauvin kneeling on a Black man’s neck in the streets of Minneapolis surfaced on the internet and later spread like a raging California wildfire. All in all, some can argue that we are evolving while some remain convinced that things are steadily devolving: there’s a new president, a woman had never been vice president and the last time the Capitol building had been stormed was by the invading British in 1812. That’s quite a lot in 13 months and the dust really hasn’t begun to settle. Many are wondering how much that has changed will remain so, while others are waiting to see how much of the past can be restored.
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