In honor of the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, which passed yesterday (May 25), 18-year-old Darnella Frazier — the young woman whose cell phone recording of the incident brought it to the world’s attention — spoke out about how witnessing Floyd’s last moments changed her life.
“A year ago today I witnessed a murder,” Frazier’s statement posted to her social media accounts yesterday began. “The victim’s name was George Floyd. Although this wasn’t the first time I’ve seen a Black man get killed at the hands of the police, this is the first time I witnessed it happen in front of me. Right in front of my eyes, a few feet away. I didn’t know this man from a can of paint, but 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.”
If you recall, the young woman was 17 at the time of Floyd’s murder and was going to her local corner store with a young cousin of hers when she saw former police officer Derek Chauvin and other cops restraining Floyd to the ground, Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and leaving him unable to breathe. Courageously, Frazier recorded the 46-year-old Black man’s death as he laid pinned to the ground, and later, that recording served as “key evidence in Chauvin’s murder trial.” Last month, the ex-police officer was found guilty of second and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The other officers involved, who were also subsequently fired, are set to stand on trial in August.
“It changed me,” Frazier said yesterday about Floyd’s last moments and death. “It changed how I viewed life. It made me realize how dangerous it is to be Black in America. We shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells around police officers, the same people that are supposed to protect and serve. We are looked at as thugs, animals, and criminals, all because of the color of our skin. Why are Black people the only ones viewed this way when every race has some type of wrongdoing? None of us are to judge. We are all human. I am 18 now and I still hold the weight and trauma of what I witnessed a year ago.”
“It’s a little easier now, but I’m not who I used to be. A part of my childhood was taken from me,” she continued. In the statement, Frazier highlighted that since recording Floyd’s murder she’s suffered from nightmares and sleeplessness, “panic and anxiety attacks,” struggling to trust others, having to leave her home because it was “no longer safe.”
Her recording sparked months of Black Lives Matter protests, which prompted her to be awarded the Benenson Courage Award from PEN America — presented to her by Oscar awarding-winning filmmaker Spike Lee. While speaking about the 18-year-old during the virtual ceremony, Lee had said, “I’m so proud of my sister. 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.”
Concerning how the impact of the spotlight she’s gained has affected her, Frazier’s statement noted, “A lot of people call me a hero even though I don’t see myself as one. I was just in the right place at the right time. Behind this smile, behind these awards, behind the publicity, I’m a girl trying to heal from something I am reminded of every day. Everyone talks about the girl who recorded George Floyd‘s death, but to actually be her is a different story. Not only did this affect me, my family too.”
“These officers shouldn’t get to decide if someone gets to live or not,” she concluded. “It’s time these officers start getting held accountable. Murdering people and abusing your power while doing it is not doing your job. It shouldn’t have to take people actually going through something to understand it’s not ok. It’s called having a heart and understanding right from wrong. George Floyd, I can’t express enough how I wish things could have gone different, but I want you to know you will always be in my heart. I’ll always remember this day because of you. May your soul rest in peace. May you rest in the most beautiful roses. “
Read the young woman’s statement in full down below.
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