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Darnella Frazier, Teen Who Filmed Floyd's Murder, Praised For Making Verdict Possible

An image from a police body camera shows bystanders outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. The group includes Darnella Frazier, third from right, as she made a 10-minute recording of George Floyd's death.
Minneapolis Police Department via AP
An image from a police body camera shows bystanders outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. The group includes Darnella Frazier, third from right, as she made a 10-minute recording of George Floyd's death.

The Black teenager who recorded the now-infamous video of Derek Chauvin pressing his knee on George Floyd's neck for nearly 10 minutes last May is being hailed as a hero following the former Minneapolis police officer's conviction on murder and manslaughter charges.

Darnella Frazier, who was 17 at the time, testified during the trial that she has spent nights apologizing to Floyd for "not doing more." Now, people across the country — including Floyd's family, President Biden and numerous celebrities and elected officials — are crediting her bravery and quick thinking in capturing the video that they say made the guilty verdict possible.

After the jury convicted Chauvin of all three charges, Frazier shared a post on social media expressing her relief and thanking God. "Justice has been served," she added.

Frazier had been taking her 9-year-old cousin to Cup Foods last Memorial Day when she saw police officers holding Floyd on the asphalt near the rear of a police vehicle, a scene she described during her testimony as that of "a man terrified, scared, begging for his life."

She sent her cousin inside the store and began filming. The 10-minute video she posted to Facebook has since been seen by millions and became a central piece of evidence in Chauvin's trial.

"When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad, my brothers, my cousins, my uncles, because they are all Black," Frazier said from the witness stand. "I look at how that could have been one of them."

The graphic video captured a scene drastically at odds with the initial police statement, which described the encounter as: "man dies after medical incident during police interaction." It said that Floyd physically resisted officers and made no mention of the prolonged restraint.

Many social media users and public figures are praising Frazier for taking the video, which they credit with disproving the police narrative and facilitating the trial's historic outcome.

Police officers are rarely convicted of murder for on-duty killings, and Chauvin is just the second such case in Minnesota's history.

In remarks delivered Tuesday, Biden also noted how rare such a verdict is and said Chauvin's conviction seems for many people to have been the result of "a unique and extraordinary convergence of factors" — including "a brave young woman with a smartphone camera."

Angela Harrelson, Floyd's aunt, lauded Frazier's bravery in a Wednesday interview with CNN.

"It really doesn't surprise me that much, with police cover-ups, because they've always had done that, especially towards Black and brown people," Harrelson said. "The sad thing is if it hadn't been for that 17-year-old girl Darnella, it would have been another Black man, that was killed by the police, his own fault, and they would have said, 'Oh, it was drugs, oh it was this.' And we would never have had the story we would have and wouldn't be here today talking."

Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Michael Moore wrote in a tweet that Frazier had changed the world, adding, "No film in our time has been more important than yours." Journalist Ann Marie Lipinski called it "one of the most important civil rights documents in a generation."

Some have called for Frazier to receive the Pulitzer Prize for photojournalism. Melvin Carter, the mayor of St. Paul, Minn., wrote, "What work of media has been more consequential in the past year?"

"She is a stellar example of how everyday people can be powerful in documenting injustice and creating momentum for accountability," tweeted Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.

Frazier has received one award already — from PEN America, the nonprofit organization focused on freedom of expression. The legendary producer, director and screenwriter Spike Lee presented Frazier with an award for courage at a virtual ceremony in December.

"She documented the murder of George Floyd, our brother. King Floyd. And that footage reverberated around this God's earth, and people took to the streets all over this Earth," Lee said. "Not just the United States of America, and it wasn't just Black people either."

At the ceremony, a slew of high-profile figures — including actors Gabrielle Union and Meryl Streep, civil rights activists DeRay Mckesson and Anita Hill, and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. — offered their praise and thanks in a series of brief video clips.

"I never would imagine out of my whole 17 years of living that this will be me," Frazier said as she accepted the award. "It's just a lot to take in, but I couldn't say 'thank you' enough for everything that's been coming towards me."

In the wake of the trial, supporters of Frazier are expressing their gratitude as well as their hopes that she will continue to receive support.

Frazier testified that she felt like she was in danger at the time and that police were threatening bystanders with Mace as they called for officers to stop hurting Floyd and render medical attention.

Many have noted that the experience and resulting trauma will stay with her permanently.

Bernice King, CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, posted a tweet wishing "emotional healing" for Frazier, while journalist Evette Dionne offered prayers for the safety of Frazier and other bystanders who "now have a city police department's bullseye on their back."

Others are sharing the link to an online fundraiser titled "Peace and Healing for Darnella Fund," which was created last May and has raised more than $630,000 as of midday Wednesday.

"In addition to the trauma of watching a black man be murdered by police, she has had to deal with trolls, bullies and ignorant people harassing her online," organizers wrote. "It took unbelievable courage for her to stand there and bear witness to such an awful tragedy. We all have our roles to play in the revolution against white supremacy. Darnella played an important one and should be uplifted, not shamed."

In an update on Tuesday, organizer Mica Cole Kamenski said that while the fundraiser had originally been established to support Frazier's immediate healing and well-being, contributors wanted to provide the financial resources to ensure her long-term safety and that proceeds from the fundraiser will be transferred to a trust in Frazier's name.

Kamenski added that "because of Darnella Frazier, we saw a glimpse of accountability today."

"The support I had since day one carried me a long way," Frazier wrote on Facebook on Tuesday. "So thank you all again, thank you."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.