By Sean Yoes
AFRO Senior Reporter
The intersection of Chicago Avenue and 38th Street in Minneapolis is reminiscent of a myriad of impoverished, mostly Black, communities across America.
Within that Minneapolis neighborhood there is a prototypical cornerstore called Cup Foods, a variety grocery store where they also sell phones, bus cards, stamps and make keys.
It’s a place 18-year old Darnella Frazier is haunted by.
On the second day of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the disgraced former Minneapolis police officer who flattened the life out of George Floyd on Memorial Day 2020, it was the courageous teen who was forced to relive the nightmare of Floyd’s murder.
She had ventured to Cup Foods with her younger cousin, who at the time was 9 (now 10, she was also forced to testify during day two of the trial) to purchase some snacks.
Yet, on that fateful Memorial Day it was Frazier, then 17, who wielded the camera phone that captured the deadly eight minutes and 46 seconds that catapulted this country into its latest racial reckoning (this week the prosecution contends the time of Chauvin’s deadly assault upon Floyd actually lasted nine minutes, 29 seconds).
During her testimony, the prosecution displayed images of those malignant Minneapolis cops perched upon Floyd’s nearly lifeless body like vultures, as Chauvin inflicted the damage that has him on trial for varying degrees of murder.
On the witness stand she tearfully recalled how Floyd represented many of the Black men in her life that she loves.
“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,” she said. “I have a Black father. I have a Black brother. I have Black friends,” she added. “I look at how that could have been one of them.”
This trial is hard to watch. But, imagine what it must have been like for this brave young woman to witness Floyd’s demise unfold before her eyes in real time. What kind of sadistic, murderous spirit dwells within Chauvin? During the second day of the trial the prosecution revealed video footage that had not been viewed by the public previously. It showed Chauvin with that disdainful sneer etched on his face, his knee firmly planted on Floyd’s neck even as he lay in the street motionless. So intent on destroying Floyd, Chauvin only relents when the paramedics implore him to rise from Floyd’s deflated body.
“I see a man on the ground, and I see a cop kneeling down on him,” Frazier testified, describing Floyd as “terrified…scared, begging for his life.”
As Chauvin sat next to his attorney doodling notes seemingly unfazed by it all, Frazier lamented her inability to save George Floyd’s life last May and then delivered a searing indictment of the man accused of his death.
“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. “But, it’s like, it’s not what I should have done, it’s what he should have done.”
Derek Chauvin never acted as a public servant on Memorial Day 2020, he was a public executioner.
But, we have to face the grim reality that he may walk out of that courthouse in Minneapolis at the end of his trial free as a bird.
And the nation has to brace itself for the possible consequences of that verdict.
Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Senior Reporter and author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.