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‘Darnella Frazier changed the world’: Following Chauvin verdict, praise pours in for teenager who captured Floyd’s murder

This May 25, 2020, file image from a police body camera shows bystanders including Darnella Frazier, third from right, filming as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was recorded pressing his knee on George Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes in Minneapolis.
This May 25, 2020, file image from a police body camera shows bystanders including Darnella Frazier, third from right, filming as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was recorded pressing his knee on George Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes in Minneapolis.Associated Press

On the day of George Floyd’s murder last May, then 17-year-old Darnella Frazier had been walking to the Cup Foods convenience store in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her young cousin when they came upon Floyd’s arrest at the hands of former police officer Derek Chauvin.

What she did in the moments following — recording on her cellphone the minutes that Floyd gasped for air as Chauvin pressed his knee into the Black man’s neck, and later uploading the brutal footage on Facebook — is being heralded as the action that solidified the prosecution’s case against the ex-cop.

“As the prosecutors congratulate each other, thinking of young Darnella Frazier,” wrote Ann Marie Lipinski, curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, in a tweet. “There is no case without her. The video record she made is one of the most important civil rights documents in a generation.”

As the world watched, Chauvin was convicted on Tuesday of murder and manslaughter for pinning Floyd to the pavement with his knee for what authorities say was over 9 minutes.

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After the video of Floyd’s death was widely circulated online, protesters worldwide took to the streets to call for action against police brutality and systemic racism — looking for justice many felt had long been denied when people of color have died at the hands of law enforcement.

And as the weight of the verdict sunk in on Tuesday evening — “justice over injustice” prevailing as Floyd family attorney Ben Crump said at a news conference — it was not lost on many the pivotal role that Frazier played in making the historical moment happen.

“Darnella Frazier changed the world,” Wesley Lowery, a journalist with CBS News, wrote in a tweet.

When she delivered testimony at the trial at the end of March, Frazier, now 18, became emotional, recounting the scene and the nights she spent awake blaming herself for not doing more.

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“It’s been nights I stayed up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” she said.

Throughout her time on the witness stand, Frazier cried several times as she described what she saw — Floyd “terrified, scared, begging for his life” — and how she has been haunted by his death since.

“When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad, I look at my brothers, I look at my cousins, my uncles, because they’re all Black,” Frazier said. “I have a Black father. I have a Black brother. I have Black friends. I look at how that could have been one of them.”

Those are the memories that “will walk alongside her for the rest of her years,” wrote Michele Norris, a columnist and consultant at the Washington Post, in a tweet on Tuesday.

“Can we all sing a praise song for Darnella Frazier who had the presence of mind to film that video that made such a difference in this case,” Norris wrote.

Without the video, scores of people wrote on social media, the case would have turned out much differently — with Chauvin possibly walking out of the Hennepin County Courthouse a free man.

“If Darnella Frazier hadn’t filmed what happened and uploaded it to social media, where would this case be?” pondered CNN correspondent Oscar Jimenez.

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In his tweet, he attached a screenshot of a press release published by the Minneapolis Police Department the day after Floyd’s murder at the hands of Chauvin.

The descriptions of the events at the hands of law enforcement were presented far differently than what Frazier recorded on her cellphone — absent were the details of Floyd’s cries that he could not breathe, the duration of time Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, or the calls from onlookers begging for the former officer to stop.

Instead, the stripped-down version of events describes Floyd as having “physically resisted officers,” appearing to have suffered “medical distress” only after being handcuffed, and that no weapons were used nor officers injured.

President Biden, delivering remarks after the verdict was announced, mentioned Frazier by name as well. He noted that “such a verdict is also much too rare.”

Biden went on to note the “extraordinary convergence of factors” at play, beginning with Frazier, who he described as a “brave young woman with a smartphone camera.”

He went on to list the “crowd that was traumatized,” the length of the murder in broad daylight, officers who took to the stand to decry the actions of Chauvin, and the jury who ultimately delivered the verdict.

“It feels like it took all of that for the judicial system to deliver just, basic accountability,” Biden said.

A GoFundMe created last summer to “support the healing and the restoration of hope for Darnella Frazier” was again being circulated widely online on Tuesday in the wake of the verdict — with donations pouring in.

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More than $580,000 had been raised for Frazier by the evening.

After the verdict was announced, Frazier wrote on Facebook that she “just cried so hard.”

“This last hour my heart was beating so fast, I was so anxious, anxiety bussing through the roof. But to know GUILTY ON ALL 3 CHARGES !!! THANK YOU GOD THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU,” she wrote.

Frazier added: “George Floyd we did it!! justice has been served.”


Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.