“As the crowd got bigger, it seemed to be their anger too,” Nelson said in his opening speech on Monday. “And remember, there is more to the scene than what the officers see in front of them. There are people behind them, there are people across the street, there are cars stopping, people are screaming. There is a growing crowd and what officers perceive as a threat. “
The carefully calibrated language on each page is no accident. When Nelson was interrogating Donald Williams, a former wrestler and mixed martial arts fighter who also worked in security, he overwhelmed his questions with the word “crowd”: “Have you ever had to deal with a crowd of people?” ” Have you ever had to deal with a crowd that was upset? ” and “Is it easier or harder to deal with an angry crowd?”
Video of the scene suggests a little less than a crowd – on the sidewalk in front of Cup Foods, where Chauvin put Floyd into the street, around 15 people can be seen on a surveillance video. This camera shows Darnella Frazier, who made the most-watched viewer video, walked by with her 9 year old cousin and then returned to start filming, one of the first people to stop and watch. Others gather one after the other.
A still with body cameras of Officer Tou Thao standing facing bystanders and warning them to stay on the sidewalk shows 14 people. At least five are female, including Frazier, her cousin, and two teenagers. A spectator is a small child. At least three people have their phones out to capture the scene. Of the 14, only one – a young girl who takes two steps with her phone off – is off the sidewalk at this point, although the live video shows others sometimes stepping out onto the street.
Nelson has suggested that there are others out of camera – across the street and across the intersection – though the widest camera view yet shows no crowd at the intersection. He also highlighted passing cars that may have added to the officers’ stress.
Mike Brandt, a local defense attorney who was closely watching the trial, said Nelson “obviously needs to come up with an explanation as to why the cops continued to do what they did.” He said he didn’t think it would be convincing.
“If you look at the ‘crowd’, you have visions of two or three people spreading 180 degrees (if not more) deep around the officers,” said Brandt. “That really wasn’t the case.”
The video, recorded by Frazier and others, showed people upset by what they saw. Blackwell said viewers first tried to “intervene with their voices” and then started recording videos. It wasn’t long before some chauvinists begged their pity on Floyd.
“You brought him down – let him breathe,” someone yelled. One woman said, “How long are you going to hold him?”
Concern grew when Floyd fell silent. “He’s not responding right now,” said someone. Spectators Genevieve Hansen, a firefighter, asked officers to check his pulse. Another asked: “Did you kill him (expletively)?”
Hansen said she was on her way home from a walk when she saw the police vehicles.
“I was concerned to see a handcuffed man who didn’t move, with officers with their whole bodies on their backs and a crowd that was stressed,” she said.
She said she identified herself as a firefighter, but officials refused to let her come to the rescue of Floyd. She admitted raising her voice and using bad language “because I was desperate” to help Floyd. On cross-examination, Nelson asked her how she would react if she was fighting a fire and a lot of onlookers had problems with her job. Hansen said she had no problem.
No viewer was louder than Williams, and Nelson worked to get him out.
Nelson asked if Williams was getting angrier as the arrest progressed, and the mixed martial arts fighter agreed. Nelson also noted that Williams used chauvin names – “tough guy”, “real man”. He called him a “bum” 13 times. When Williams appeared to be stepping off the curb and Thao touched him, Nelson said Williams threatened the officer.
Williams did not disagree.
“Yes, I did,” he said without hesitation. “I mean it.” But he said his anger was focused on what happened to Floyd.
“You can’t paint me up to be angry,” he said to Nelson.
Frazier was also at the center of a remarkable exchange with Nelson. She confirmed to him that as time went on, more people gathered, the voices got louder, and the people got angrier.
But Blackwell then asked Frazier if anyone had threatened the police, had become violent, acted unruly, or, in fairness, could be called a “mob”. No, she replied.
Has she seen a bystander who “did something to attack or threaten Mr. Chauvin?”
“No,” she replied.
“Did you see a single thing that indicated that Mr. Chauvin was afraid of you, your little cousin, or any of the bystanders?” Blackwell asked.
The answer again “no”.