George Floyd’s tragic death may not have caused worldwide outrage if it wasn’t filmed. Do viral videos reduce police abuse?

“They killed that man, bro. He was crying and telling them, “I can’t breath.”

Darnella Frazier, a Facebook Live host, rambled for more than five minutes about the murder she witnessed. She repeatedly claimed that she had video evidence.

Frazier uploaded a video shortly after George Floyd’s death in late May. It included the 8 minutes and 46 second in which Derek Chauvin forced Derek Chauvin to his neck.

It’s unlikely that Floyd’s death would have been reported if it weren’t for the footage and other footage taken by others. Is viral video, taken on your phone, an effective way to check police abuse?

What made this one so different?

Philando Castile was killed in a police car accident in 2016. As with George Floyd’s death, Castile’s death occurred in Minnesota. It was in Falcon Heights, a short drive from Minneapolis. Castile’s girlfriend streamed the aftermath via Facebook live, with photos of Castile’s dead body in the driver seat.

Two police officers shot Alton Sterling in the head outside a convenience store, Louisiana, the day before. Online video evidence was posted of footage taken with a smartphone.

The 2014 events that led to the deaths Eric Garner and Laquan Mcdonald in New York were captured on videotape. Many people cite Rodney King’s beating by Los Angeles police officers in 1991 as one of the “viral” police abuse videos. This was long before social media.

However, none of these events sparked the same amount of worldwide outrage as George Floyd’s footage.

Experts attribute Floyd’s death to the length of Floyd’s video and the graphic nature of its content.

“A gunshot can be very fast, but it is also very traumatizing and easy to look away,” states Allissa Richardson (author of Bearing Witness While Black, African Americans, Smartphones and the New Protest #Journalism).

She says, “This video transfixed people due to the callousness of the killing combined with the brazenness of the police who knew they were being recorded and still did it.”

Online activism

Black Lives Matter was founded in 2013. The deaths of Michael Brown and Mr Garner in Ferguson, Missouri sparked massive protests the next year.

Ms Richardson claims that rather than ushering a new type of activism, the new technology is being used for an older purpose.

To explain the history of African Americans trying to document injustices in the past, she uses the term “black witnessesing”. She draws inspiration from Frederick Douglass (an escaped slave who led America’s abolitionist movement). Douglass’ first autobiography was a detailed account of his life as a slave.

She says that black people don’t just record in the wrong spot at the wrong time when they pick up their phones. “They are trying to connect historical dots between atrocities.”

Others are more concerned about the security features of the mobile phone.

Monnica Williams, a clinical psychologist, says that every interaction with law enforcement officers is potentially life-threatening for African Americans. They film these interactions to protect themselves.

Watching out for the police

Video footage was used by activists in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder to watch the policing and monitoring of protests. This is often done in chaotic and confusing circumstances.

David Frost thought that the police had taken another person’s life when he pressed record on his cell phone’s camera at a protest held on 31 May.

He said, “I wanted as many people as possible to see it.” “I was only six feet away when he was shot.”

After Justin Howell (20 years old) was shot in Austin, Texas, with a “less lethal” bean bag munition, Mr Frost, a white male, began filming. The video shows protesters carrying the wounded man towards police in an effort to get help. Police opened fire again.

As a result of the accident, Mr Howell sustained life-altering injuries including brain damage and a fractured head. The video of Mr Frost was seen over 10,000,000 times on Twitter and widely covered by US media.

He says, “It wasn’t until we had almost three million hits before the Austin Police Department even mentioned anything.”

Austin police said that they will no longer use bean bag munition to control crowds after the incident became viral.

Josh Howell, Justin’s brother, said to BBC Trending: “The quickness and whiciness of Justin.”