United Kingdom

George Floyd: Teenager who filmed murder given special award by Pulitzer board

A teenager who recorded the murder of George Floyd on her mobile phone was recognised on Friday at the Pulitzer Prize ceremony for her "transformative video" that sparked protests around the world.

The Pulitzer Board awarded Darnella Frazier a special citation for a video she said has haunted her ever since, showing Floyd's death beneath the knee of Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis policeman. Chauvin was convicted of murdering Floyd in a trial during which Ms Frazier's video was played repeatedly.

The citation at the 2021 Pulitzer Prize ceremony is a rare instance of the board recognising the journalistic achievement of someone with no professional experience in the field, a striking distinction in the genre sometimes known as citizen journalism.

Reuters and the Minneapolis Star Tribune each won a Pulitzer Prize for journalism about racial inequities in US policing, while The New York Times and The Atlantic were honoured for covering the Covid-19 pandemic, the two topics that dominated last year's headlines.

The Star Tribune won the prize for breaking news reporting for what the board called its "urgent, authoritative and nuanced" coverage of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police last May.

The Pulitzer Prizes are the most prestigious awards in American journalism and have been handed out since 1917.

Ms Frazier, 18, was recognised for recording a "transformative video that jolted viewers and spurred protests against police brutality around the world," Mindy Marques, co-chair of the Pulitzer Board, said at Friday's online announcement ceremony.

Ms Frazier's video, above, shows Chauvin kneeling on the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in handcuffs, for about 9 minutes while arresting him on suspicion of using a fake $20 bill on May 25, 2020. Floyd begs for his life before dying on the Minneapolis road.

Ms Frazier has rarely discussed the video she made, but she testified for the prosecution at Chauvin's murder trial this year, where members of Floyd's family were sometimes seen averting their gaze each time her video was replayed.

She told jurors that she was taking her nine-year-old cousin to buy snacks when she saw "a man terrified, scared, begging for his life," and so pulled out her phone and hit record. She uploaded the video to Facebook later that night, where it would be watched by millions of people around the world.

Chauvin is due to be sentenced on June 25.

Mr Frazier could not be reached for comment on Friday, and a lawyer who represented her during the Chauvin trial did not respond to an email from Reuters seeking comment.

Her video is widely credited with bringing attention to a police killing that might otherwise not even have made the local news. It has been compared to the similarly galvanising videos made by George Holliday in 1991 of Los Angeles police beating Rodney King, a Black motorist, and by Ramsey Orta in 2014 of a New York City policeman killing Eric Garner, a Black man, with a banned chokehold.

The Pulitzer Board called Ms Frazier an example of "the crucial role of citizens in journalists' quest for truth and justice."

Michael Deas, a professor at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, said Ms Frazier's video "fulfilled a public service."

"She is fittingly worthy, placing her in the company of past recipients, like Ida B. Wells," he said, referring to the pioneering black journalist.

Even before Friday's awards ceremony there was speculation that Ms Frazier's video might be recognised. In December, it earned her the 2020 Benenson Courage Award from PEN America, presented to her by the filmmaker Spike Lee.

On the first anniversary of Floyd's murder, Mx Frazier wrote about the lingering trauma in a message on Facebook.

"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," she wrote. "Behind this smile, behind these awards, behind the publicity, I'm a girl trying to heal from something I am reminded of every day."

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