MINNEAPOLIS — One was crowned homecoming king. One was voted class friendliest. One was a member of the African American club.
All three played crucial roles in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer found guilty of murdering George Floyd.
And all three — Minneapolis police Chief Medaria Arradondo, lawyer Eric Nelson and high school student Darnella Frazier — spent their formative years at Minneapolis’ Roosevelt High School.
Chauvin’s conviction this week sent a ripple of relief throughout the school and its south Minneapolis community and ushered in a wave of pride for Frazier, who helped make it so.
“She set the stage for girls like me looking up to her,” said Markeanna Tyus, 16, a junior and friend of Frazier. “She’s a hero.”
Darnella Frazier, left, chats with school resource officer Drea Leal at Minneapolis Roosevelt High School in January 2019.
Darnella Frazier, left, chats with school resource officer Drea Leal at Minneapolis Roosevelt High School in January 2019.David Joles / Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS/Sipa USA file
Frazier was 17 when she recorded a cellphone video of Floyd’s arrest that drove much of the public’s understanding of what took place May 25. She and Arradondo, the city’s first Black police chief, testified for the prosecution, with Frazier tearfully expressing regret for not physically intervening before Floyd died.
“I go to school with a revolutionary,” Markeanna said. “I feel powerful to know I have a Black woman attending my school who endured all of that.”
Roosevelt High School is 2 miles from the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in south Minneapolis, where Chauvin pinned Floyd under his knee for what prosecutors said was 9½ minutes. The area is now known as George Floyd Square.
Arradondo graduated from the high school in 1985. He was part of the gymnastics team. He joined the Minneapolis Police Department four years later and was inducted into the Roosevelt High School Hall of Fame in September 2018.
Nelson was part of the student council, sang in the choir and was inducted into the National Honor Society. He graduated in 1992.
It was Nelson, Chauvin’s defense attorney, who made the connection between the three during his closing argument Monday.
“We all went to the same high school, obviously at different times,” Nelson told jurors. “We had the same perspective, sat in the same classrooms, saw the same chalkboards or whiteboards, the same perspective. But our perception of our experiences there is going to be much different.”
Darnella Frazier, third from right, films as former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin presses his knee on George Floyd’s neck for several minutes in Minneapolis on May 25.
Darnella Frazier, third from right, films as former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin presses his knee on George Floyd’s neck for several minutes in Minneapolis on May 25.Minneapolis Police Department via AP file
Some members of the school community were less than eager to claim the attorney as their own. (Markeanna said he is an “imbecile” and that he weaponized Floyd’s feelings.)
“Our school has some of the most fervent social justice activists that I’ve ever seen among young adults,” said Marcia Howard, 47, whose teaching career began at Roosevelt High School in 1998. “What’s special about that school is our commitment to creating civic-minded students. Our model is: Enter to learn and leave to serve.”
Howard, who teaches English, said that at the onset of the civil unrest over Floyd’s death, she encouraged her students to learn from the moment. She said she told them, “Class is over, you all have credit. Just take care of yourselves, practice social distancing and seek justice.”
Members of the school community were galvanized into action.
Greta Boogren, 18, a senior, said she participated in protests every weekend last summer and took part in the statewide walkout Monday to protest racial injustice.
“We’ve had so many protests this past year and people are still going,” she said, “which is great because we can’t stop now.”
She believes the profession of policing needs widespread changes. “From its very roots, it’s just evil,” said Boogren, who is white.
Markeanna said she has attended hundreds of protests since Floyd was killed and has been pepper-sprayed and hit with rubber bullets at some of them. She lives down the road from Cup Foods, where Floyd is alleged to have used a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes in May.
She said she wishes the school had done more to support students this past year who have been dealing with the pandemic, distance learning and a racial reckoning spurred by Floyd’s death. School district spokesman Dirk Tedmon did not return a request for comment.