American 17-year-old Darnella Frazier, who filmed George Floyd being choked by the police, will receive an award for the courage to have recorded the scene.
“With nothing but a cell phone and a lot of courage, Darnella changed the course of this country’s history,” says Suzanne Nossel, president of Pen America, an association that defends freedom of expression and human rights that will honor the young woman. “[Seu vídeo] lit the flames of a courageous movement that calls for an end to systemic racism and violence by the police. “
The tribute to Darnella will be made in early December in a virtual ceremony that will replace the traditional gala ball that the institution offers to deliver the “PEN / Benenson Courage Award” (Pen / Benenson courage award).
The police’s assassination of George Floyd sparked a huge uprising in the United States and spurred the Black Lives Matter movement, which is fighting to end racism and police violence against blacks in the country.
Initially, no police officer had been held responsible for Floyd’s death. But when the video recorded by Darnella – showing the policeman suffocating Floyd – became public, demonstrations by the Black Lives Matter spread across the United States and the world and the police fired the officers involved in the case. Today they are criminally responsible for Floyd’s death.
Black Lives Matter
Darnella was taking her nine-year-old cousin to Cup Foods, a store near her home in Minneapolis, Minnesota, when she saw Floyd suffering from the police approach. She stopped, picked up the phone and started recording. He filmed for 10 minutes and nine seconds, until the police and Floyd left the scene – Chauvin standing, Floyd on a stretcher.
“She felt she had to document that,” Darnella’s lawyer, Seth Cobin, told the BBC.
When Darnella started recording, George Floyd was already short of breath, begging repeatedly: “please, please, please”. The camera had been filming for seconds when Floyd, 46, said three more words that later became a rallying cry for the protesters. “I can’t breathe,” said Floyd.
He struggled to speak while lying, pinned to the ground by three policemen. One of these policemen, Derek Chauvin, 44, pressed a knee to Floyd’s neck.
After the revolt generated by the video and the wave of protests by the Black Lives Matter in the US and around the world, the authorities resumed their investigations. Chauvin lost his job, was arrested and formally charged with Floyd’s murder. He was released on bail in October and will be tried for the episode alongside three other police officers involved in Floyd’s death.
“It’s as if the civil rights movement has been reborn in a whole new way, because of this video,” Cobin, Darnella’s lawyer, told the BBC.
The consequences of filming police brutality
The months following the video recording were not easy for Darnella. At the Facebook, where she posted the video, the reaction was a mixture of shock, indignation, praise and criticism.
In a Facebook post, shared on May 27, Darnella responded to accusations that she had filmed the video “to get an audience on the Internet” and that “she didn’t do enough to prevent Floyd’s death.”
“If it weren’t for me, four policemen would still have their jobs, causing other problems. My video was released around the world for everyone to see and know,” wrote the high school student.
Darnella declined to be interviewed – her lawyer said the young woman was traumatized. It was, according to him, “the most terrible thing she has ever seen”. Since then, she has been to the therapist and “is doing very well,” said Cobin.
The reaction to the teenager’s video summarizes the dilemma faced by viewers who record images of police violence incidents. Other similar cases have shown that it is a very difficult position.
Darnella will share the Pen America Courage Award with Marie Yovanovitch, former US Ambassador to Ukraine and a central figure in the impeachment suffered by President Donald Trump in the House of Representatives (Trump was not deposed because his impediment was not approved in the Senate) .