Witnesses in Derek Chauvin trial solicit donations through GoFundMe

By: - April 5, 2021 12:11 pm

Donald Williams II, who witnessed Derek Chauvin kneel on George Floyd’s neck, launched a GoFundMe after he testified in court.

One of the prosecution’s witnesses, Donald W. Williams II, has a GoFundMe asking for $500,000 to “get his life back on track” and start a community center for young African American boys.

The son of another witness, Charles Mcmillian, started a campaign to raise $5,000 for his father to visit his own mother’s burial in Mississippi and get therapy after watching George Floyd die.

A GoFundMe for Darnella Frazier, the teenager who broadcast George Floyd’s death from her cellphone, is receiving donations again after Frazier took the stand last week in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, charged with murder and manslaughter for kneeling on Floyd’s neck.

“Darnella, you are a strong and brave woman. You did such a good job protecting your little cousin,” wrote Lynn Angelini on GoFundMe this week after donating $10 to the campaign which has already raised more than $530,000.

With the world’s attention back on Minneapolis for Chauvin’s trial, the bystanders taking the stand are being widely valorized and pitied for bearing witness to Floyd’s last breaths.

“Donald W. Williams II is the young man who was pleading for George Floyd’s life in the now-viral video you all have heard his voice. Now is the time to help uplift him and his needs,” the GoFundMe campaign reads.

The campaign, which has raised nearly $7,000, is called a “trauma healing fund” for Williams, and the money will go toward helping him “get back to what he is used to doing which is being a mentor, coach, strong advocate for the community he comes from.”

The description of the campaign is signed by Williams’ cousin, Shannon Davis, and leaders of a group called Guns Down Belts On with Williams listed as CEO.

In an interview, Davis said he started the campaign to support Williams and the city of Minneapolis and said $500,000 is hardly an ambitious goal.

“Why is it ambitious? During a time like this with the social changes, with the different things that need to happen in the world. Is that ambitious? We’re really not asking for enough,” Davis said.

Williams testified about calling 911 while Chauvin was on top of Floyd.

“I believe I witnessed a murder,” Williams testified. “I felt the need to call the police on the police.”

He also testified about his training as a professional mixed martial arts fighter and said he recognized Chauvin’s use of a “blood choke.” The defense aimed to characterize him as “angry,” which he rebutted and social media jumped to his defense.

One donor, Leah Rogers, gave $30 and said: “We owe Mr. Williams, and all the brave witnesses, a profound debt for their service to our city. Thank you for speaking truth to power.”

Another, Hannah Straka, who gave $20 wrote: “The trauma the witnesses experienced was very raw as they testified. Donald Williams is a hero and I wish I could do more to help him on his journey to heal.”

Mcmillian’s son started a campaign with the goal of $5,000, which has already been surpassed. Supporters would help Mcmillian visit his mother’s burial in Mississippi with one of his other children, a 12-year-old son.

In an interview, Mcmillian, 61, said his mother has been on his mind every day since he testified.

Mcmillian said in court that he repeatedly begged Floyd to just “get up and get in the car” while Floyd kept telling him he couldn’t.

As the prosecution began to play videos of Mcmillian pleading with Floyd to get up, Mcmillian broke down on the witness stand, sobbing.

“I can’t, I feel helpless. I don’t have a mother either, I understand him,” Mcmillian testified.

Mcmillian’s mother died four years ago this June and he said visiting her burial will help him get closure. He’s planning to travel to Mississippi in June.

He said he also may use some of the money for therapy.

“I need therapy. I need to start seeing somebody,” Mcmillian said, “My girlfriend said that that changed me. The first thing on my mind when I wake up is George Floyd. With what happened on the witness stand the other day, now it’s my mom that’s on my mind.”

Former Hennepin County Public Defender Mary Moriarty said these crowdfunding campaigns likely won’t affect the trial.

“Really the big issue is to keep the jury from being exposed to these things,” Moriarty, who shared Mcmillian’s campaign on social media, wrote in a text message.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.