The teenager who filmed the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer has been given a special journalism award by the Pulitzer Prize board.
Darnella Frazier, now 18, was awarded the citation for her courage, the Pulitzer committee said.
Her film spurred protests for racial justice around the world and was used as evidence in the trial that convicted police officer Derek Chauvin.
The Pulitzers are the most prestigious journalism awards in the US.
More Than a Film
The Committee said they honoured Ms. Frazier for “courageously recording the murder of George Floyd, a video that spurred protests against police brutality around the world, highlighting the crucial role of citizens in journalists’ quest for truth and justice.”
Ms. Frazier came across the arrest of Floyd while walking with her cousin in Minneapolis on May 25, last year.
She told a court earlier this year that she started recording the incident on her phone because “I saw a man terrified, begging for his life”.
Ms. Frazier described hearing Floyd “saying I can’t breathe. He was terrified, he was calling for his mom”.
The video was replayed around the world and sparked mass protests and a racial reckoning in the US.
To many, Floyd’s death while in police custody became a symbol of police brutality – particularly against people of colour – it sparked worldwide demonstrations for racial justice.
The footage was used as evidence at Chauvin’s murder trial earlier this year. He was later found guilty on three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.
At the murder trial, she told the court that witnessing Floyd’s death had changed her life.
“When I look at George Floyd I look at my dad, I look at my brother, my cousins, my uncles – because they are all black,” she said, audibly crying. “And I look at how that could have been one of them,” she said.
Floyd and a Flawed Racial System
George Perry Floyd Jr. (October 14, 1973 – May 25, 2020) was an African American man murdered by a police officer during an arrest after a store clerk suspected he may have used a counterfeit $20 bill in Minneapolis. Derek Chauvin, one of four police officers who arrived on the scene, knelt on Floyd’s neck and back for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. The City of Minneapolis settled a wrongful death lawsuit with Floyd’s family for $27 million. After his death, protests against police brutality, especially towards black people, quickly spread across the United States and globally. As he was dying, he said “I can’t breathe” which was used as a rallying cry during subsequent protests.
A Matter of Human Rights
Black Lives Matter (BLM) began when Oakland, Calif.–based activist Alicia Garza posted a message of protest on Facebook after George Zimmerman, a neighborhood-watch volunteer who followed and fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. On July 13, 2013, George Michael Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges in Florida v. Patrisse Cullors, another Oakland community organizer, began sharing Garza’s message on social media, along with the hashtag #blacklivesmatter. The slogan soon spread, building into a largely leaderless movement against structural racism and police violence. Last year, spurred by a Minneapolis police officer’s killing of George Floyd, millions of people demonstrated in hundreds of BLM protests throughout the U.S.An estimated 15 million to 26 million people participated in the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, making it one of the largest movements in the country’s history. The movement comprises many views and a broad array of demands but they center on criminal justice reform.
“Black Lives Matter represents a trend that goes beyond the decentralization that existed within the Civil Rights Movement,” says Aldon Morris, a sociologist at Northwestern University.
“The question becomes, ‘Are Black Lives Matter protests having any real effect in terms of generating change?’ The data show very clearly that where you had Black Lives Matter protests, killing of people by the police decreased. It’s inescapable from this study that protest matters—that it can generate change.”
The study, posted in February as an online preprint item on the Social Science Research Network, is the first of its kind to measure a possible correlation between BLM and police homicide numbers. It found that municipalities where BLM protests have been held experienced as much as a 20 percent decrease in killings by police, resulting in an estimated 300 fewer deaths nationwide in 2014–2019. The occurrence of local protests increased –
-the likelihood of police departments adopting body-worn cameras and community-policing initiatives, the study also found. Many cities with larger and more frequent BLM protests experienced greater declines in police homicides.
Aislinn Pulley is a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Chicago, says the Black Lives Matter movement can take some satisfaction in its possible impact on police homicides. “We should use that knowledge to know that the work we’re engaged in—the movement, the advocacy, the organizing—is what we need,” she says. “And that needs to expand and get broader, so we can join much of the rest of the world in having zero police killings. We can get there. That takes continued and persistent organizing.”