Young people say that the conviction Tuesday of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd, an African American, is a step toward justice and social media is a tool in curbing police brutality.
“It is definitely a step towards justice,” said George Mason University junior Shelby Adams. “However, young people, especially young people of color, know that this is not a complete victory and win until no one else dies or falls at the hands of police brutality. It just shows how there is so much more work left,” she said.
Adams pointed to social media as having a huge impact in Chauvin’s conviction.
“Without (videos), incidents like this would just happen with no one knowing,” she said. “Videotaping puts a spotlight on the racism and bigotry we have in our criminal justice system that some people may not have realized before.”
On May 25, 2020, Darnella Frazier, then 17, recorded the scene of Chauvin pressing his knee into the neck of a handcuffed Floyd on her smartphone camera and uploaded the video to Facebook. That video spread throughout social media and launched a series of protests over police brutality and racism.
Other bystanders also provided video showing different angles of the scene, and Chauvin’s body camera also captured some footage.
The videos show a heated and confused scene in which bystanders yelled at police to stop their actions as Floyd’s life ebbed away.
Frazier “had the strength and the wherewithal to share this horrendous act to the eyes of America,” said College of William & Mary freshman Lasata Tuladhar. “After witnessing this, I realized that there must be so many situations involving the police like Floyd’s murder that haven’t been shared and brought to justice.”
George Floyd’s name is written on a sidewalk near the intersection of Florence and Normandie Avenues in Los Angeles, April 20, 2021, after a guilty verdict was announced at the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin.
At a news conference, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison also mentioned the actions of passersby on the day of Floyd’s death: “The people who stopped and raised their voices on May 25, 2020, were a bouquet of humanity: young and old, men and women, black and white. A man from the neighborhood walking to get a drink. A child going to buy a snack. An off-duty firefighter on her way to a community garden. Brave young women who pressed ‘record’ on their phones. Why did they stop?”
William & Mary sophomore Liam Fish, who is studying social justice, explained that social media allowed people to take action against police brutality and racism.
“I think that pressure on them to do something and that type of mobilization wouldn’t have been made possible without social media,” Fish said.
The downside, Fish said, is the emotional response to seeing images of brutality over and over. His girlfriend has said that as a Black person, she finds it overwhelming when people post graphic content such as the Floyd video, Fish added.
“I don’t think people should really be sharing the video, at least not without putting a warning. Those graphics, especially to a person of color, can be really triggering,” he said.
“The Chauvin trial has shown young people that they can be involved in a movement and create meaningful change,” said Hollins University sophomore Claire Ross, who is on the prelaw track.
Camden Crystal, a first-year student at Cardozo School of Law in New York City, reinforces the idea that if not for social media, the case might not have received as much attention.
“This one case does not represent a solution for the issues in the police system,” Crystal said. “It is entirely possible that if not for the national attention this case received, Chauvin’s case would not have gone the same way, due to the power and influence of the police in criminal justice.”