Comedian Dave Chappelle released a surprise special on Netflix’s YouTube channel in which he addressed the death of George Floyd, racism and police brutality.
The 27-minute monologue's title 8:46 refers to the length of time police officer Derek Chauvin pushed his knee against Floyd's neck, leading to his death in May. The incident triggered a series of ongoing protests calling for reform in policing and the end of police brutality in the United States.
Within hours, the video garnered millions of views, reaching up to 9.4 million at the time of writing.
In the special, Chappelle said he was “very proud” of the young people leading the protests in multiple cities across America.
His performance was filmed on Saturday, June 6 in Ohio in front of a small, outdoor audience. The crowd can be seen wearing masks and practicing social distancing. “This is weird and less than ideal circumstances to do a show,” Chappelle said.
The comedian did not hold back on expressing emotion as he described his reaction to seeing the video of Floyd’s death.
“This man kneeled on a man’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Can you imagine that? This kid thought he was going to die. He knew he was going to die. He called for his mother. He called for his dead mother. I’ve only seen once before in my life – my father, on his deathbed, called for his grandmother. When I watched that tape, I understood this man knew he was going to die,” he said.
He also condemned the actions of the police officers on the scene who did not intervene as Floyd was killed. “What are you signifying? That you can kneel on a man’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds and feel like you wouldn’t get the wrath of God? That’s what’s happening right now. It’s not for a single cop. It’s for all of it. I don’t mean to get heavy, but we gotta say something,” Chappelle said.
After Floyd’s death, Chauvin was terminated from the police force and is now facing charges of second-degree murder. The three other police officers have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Much of Chappelle’s material covered tense relations between police and black communities in America. He recalled the killing of Eric Garner, who was killed in 2014 after a police officer put him in a chokehold.
“There goes Eric Garner. And then we have one after the other,” he said. The comedian went on to mention Travyon Martin, Michael Brown, John Crawford III, Philando Castile. Brown, Crawford and Castile were shot and killed by police officers.
Chappelle ended the special by sharing details about his family, including his great grandfather, who was a former slave. He also responded to criticism about why he had not spoken up about Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter protests sooner. “Does it matter about celebrity? No,” he said. “These streets will speak for themselves, whether I am alive or dead”.