One year ago, a young woman took out her cell phone on a street in Minneapolis to record a murder that caused a movement. Darnella Frazier, who was 17 at the time, captured the video of Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd's neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds on May 25, 2020. One year later, on the anniversary of Floyd's death, Frazier issued a powerful statement.
“A year ago, today I witnessed a murder. The victim’s name was George Floyd,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “I knew his life mattered. I knew that he was in pain. I knew that he was another black man in danger with no power.”
On the day that Floyd was killed, Frazier was walking with her 9-year-old cousin to the local corner store, not knowing that in moments, life as she knew it would never be the same. “It changed me. It changed how I viewed life. It made me realize how dangerous it is to be Black in America,” she continued. “We shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells around police officers, the same people that are supposed to protect and serve.”
Frazier’s video became a catalyst for protest and long overdue discussions about racism and police brutality in the United States. It also became a source of harassment. Almost immediately after she posted the video to Facebook, Frazier began receiving a series of concerning messages online. Some people questioned her for not stepping in and fighting off the police herself. In her response, she said that she was scared as a 17-year-old to attempt to step in, explaining that she feared further violence and retaliation.
In spite of the harassment and the trauma of watching Floyd die, Frazier was able to testify at Chauvin's trial in March of this year. Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
Although Frazier, now 18, says things are a little easier now, she carries the burden of that day with her. After it happened, she said she would wake up to reporters at her door, and was unable to sleep for weeks. She said that she would have panic and anxiety attacks every time she saw a police car and that, eventually, the only way she could get some rest was when her mother rocked her to sleep.
“I still hold the weight and trauma of what I witnessed a year ago,” she wrote. “A part of my childhood was taken from me.”
A lot has happened in the year since Floyd’s death. Mass protests around the world have led to a discussion about changes that must happen that cannot be ignored. During that time, police violence has continued and many more Black and brown people have died at the hands of officers using excessive force.
On the anniversary of Floyd's death, his family met with President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and other lawmakers. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which includes provisions to create a national registry of police misconduct, an overhaul of qualified immunity for police officers, and a ban on racial and religious profiling, currently remains in the U.S. Senate.
“Today I just felt a day of relief,” Floyd’s aunt Angela Harrelson told CNN. “The support that we have received, the love to get to this day. I am just overwhelmed with joy and hope and I feel like change is here.”
Frazier concluded her anniversary statement by saying that she would never forget Floyd and that day. “If it weren’t for my video, the world wouldn’t have known the truth,” she wrote. “I own that. My video didn’t save George Floyd, but it put his murderer away and off the streets.”