Message of the Day: Human Rights
Chauvin Guilty of Murder in Floyd’s Death, The New York Times, April 20, 2021
We had a post planned for today.
Then it was going to be replaced by another because of events.
Now this too has been replaced by another because of events.
Today, a white former police officer has been convicted of the murder of a black man last May, which launched massive protests in the streets of the US unmatched in half a century and supported around the world.
Our first planned post was about child sexual abuse online, which has become the most visible and exponentially out of control aspect of the worst aspect of child abuse. The Sunday Review in The New York Times featured “Why Do We Let Corporations Profit From Rape Videos?” by Nicholas Kristof, following-up on his December piece on the same issue–online child pornography, a misnomer for online child sexual abuse. This after the even more wrenching and unprecedented front-page Sunday cover story investigative pieces in the “Exploited” series in The Times, and follow-ups by Gabriel J.X. Dance and Michael H. Keller in late 2019 and 2020. Even more terrifying now, as predicted in the series, is the potential loss of being able to track 70% of the now well over a hundred million of these crimes online (that are trackable) and growing exponentially, which means the inability to stop the rape and molesting of these children online, as reported in The Guardian yesterday, “Facebook encryption plans will hit fight against child abuse”. Child sex abuse is perpetrated against hundreds of millions a year worldwide. Child abuse in every form is perpetrated against half of all children worldwide according to the World Health Organization, the worst ongoing pandemic in every sense. We have reported on this for some time. April is child abuse month.
But then, early this morning, it was reported that former Vice-President Walter Mondale died in Minneapolis last night. We then began a post on this, for the many historical reasons that called for it, which would have been covered at length if we had done so. Here’s some extremely abbreviated and limited references. We worked with and interviewed him years ago. At breakfast with him at the Naval Observatory on one ocassion related to his support for our work on world hunger, attendees included Republican senators, a memory of a different era, reflective not only of the bipartisan approach to hunger, but Mondale’s bipartisan instincts. At the start of an interview on another occasion, we asked him how he would like to be addressed on camera. His reply, with a broad grin, “Your Excellency”. He, and we, laughed uproariously. Just as he did when Ronald Reagan likely clinched his victory over Mondale in the 1984 debate with the quip on not using Mondale’s age and inexperience against him, to offset the real (and it turns out really real), concerns about Reagan’s age and potential dementia from the previous debate. Mondale was human before political. But a great politician, with enormous accomplishments as senator, vice-president, presidential nominee and ambassador. He was the sponsor of the first major federal law on child abuse in 1974, The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, that defined abuse and neglect as “at a minimum, any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.” That was after he helped get the Civil Rights and Voting Rights and Fair Housing acts passed, helped broker the peace deal between Israel and Egypt as vice-president and was the first presidential nominee in history to select a woman as the vice-presidential nominee. Among others, former Vice-President Gore, former President Obama, President Biden and Vice-President Harris all said of Mondale, the history of the vice-presidency in the US is defined as before and after Mondale. That’s because he required basically an equal partnership to accept Jimmy Carter’s invitation to run with him. He got it. And Carter today called him the best vice-president in US history. He may well have been. Amy Klobuchar explains why in her op-ed in The New York Times today. And his obituary appeared ready to run front page today.
Then something else happened today in Minneapolis.
A former police officer, Derek Chauvin, was convicted of all three charges–second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter–for killing George Floyd, on May 25, 2020.
A video taken by a 17 year-old girl, Darnella Frazier, with her cell phone, of the murder of George Floyd, changed the world that day, and led to the conviction today.
The issue of systemic racism and police abuse was front and center, but many activists quickly began to point to the convergence of racism, sexism, homophobia and all other such biases and inequality, human rights abuses against anyone, and classism with the relationship to power and the lack of it in terms of economic security, health care, housing and other social justice issues related to basic human needs. And the revelation once again during the pandemic that by many measures, Black lives mattered least.
The importance or impact of all this would seem impossible to overstate. We covered the events at the time at length in our post The End Of Civilization As We Knew It, Part Nineteen on June 4th.
The cover story of The New York Times, online now and in print tomorrow under the title of Chauvin Guilty of Murder in Floyd’s Death, follows.
As does an article on the 17 year-old girl who changed the world.
There are many other linked articles on the front page. The news is fresh and there is no time to comment further. And no reason at the moment. The story is well-known. And the articles report the historic news today:
By John Eligon, Tim Arango, Shaila Dewan and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, April 20, 2021, The New York Times
MINNEAPOLIS — A former police officer who pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck until well past Mr. Floyd’s final breath was found guilty of murder on Tuesday in a case that shook the nation’s conscience and drew millions into the streets for the largest racial justice protests in generations.
The verdict, which could send the former officer, Derek Chauvin, to prison for decades, was a rare rebuke of police violence, following case after case of officers going without charges or convictions after killing Black men, women and children.
At the center of it all was an excruciating video, taken by a teenage girl, that showed Mr. Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on the neck of Mr. Floyd, who was Black, for nine minutes and 29 seconds as Mr. Floyd pleaded for his life and bystanders tried to intervene. Mr. Floyd repeated “I can’t breathe” more than 20 times during the encounter.
The video, played on a horrifying loop for the past year, triggered more than calls for changes in policing. It stirred Americans of all races, in small towns and large cities, to gather for mass protests, chanting “Black lives matter” and challenging the country to finally have a true reckoning over race. Their demands reverberated within the walls of institutions that had long resisted change, from corporate America to Congress.
This week, over the course of two days, a racially diverse jury of seven women and five men deliberated for about 10 hours before pronouncing Mr. Chauvin guilty on all three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
President Biden praised the verdict in a nationwide address at the White House but called it a “too rare” step to deliver “basic accountability” for Black Americans.
“It was a murder in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see,” Mr. Biden said. “For so many, it feels like it took all of that for the judicial system to deliver just basic accountability.”
Hours before the jury came back with a decision, Mr. Biden had taken the unusual step of weighing in, telling reporters that he was “praying” for the “right verdict.”
“This can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America,” he said.
After the verdict, Philonise Floyd, one of Mr. Floyd’s younger brothers, spoke at the Hilton hotel in downtown Minneapolis. “We are able to breathe again,” he said, holding back tears.
He drew a line from his brother back to Emmett Till, a Black child who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955. “We ought to always understand that we have to march,” he said. “We will have to do this for life. We have to protest because it seems like this is a never-ending cycle.”
People gathered at the intersection where Mr. Floyd was killed, now known as George Floyd Square, and the word “Guilty” rippled throughout the crowd after the verdict was announced, prompting cheers and sobs. The crowd began to chant, “Black lives matter.”
Mr. Chauvin, who had been free on bail during the trial, was ordered into custody by the judge, Peter A. Cahill, and was taken out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
The verdict was hailed across the country by civil rights leaders and honking motorists. It gave a tense nation a moment to exhale, even as recent police killings in a Minneapolis suburb, Chicago and, on Tuesday afternoon, Columbus, Ohio, sent Americans back into the streets, holding signs that asked, “How many more?”
The case was handled by the office of Attorney General Keith Ellison, the first Black man to hold statewide office in Minnesota. Prosecutors mounted perhaps the most ambitious and extensive case in any trial of an officer for an on-duty killing.
With a rotating cast of prominent lawyers, some of whom volunteered their services, the state presented 11 days of testimony from onlookers, paramedics, fellow police officers and a phalanx of medical experts armed with formulas, charts and timelines.
Among the state’s star witnesses was the chief of the Minneapolis police, Medaria Arradondo, who said Mr. Chauvin had “absolutely” violated training, ethics and several department policies when he kept Mr. Floyd pinned facedown on the street long after he stopped breathing. It is exceedingly rare for a chief to testify against an officer from his own department.
The presumptive sentence for the most serious charge, second-degree murder, is 12.5 years, according to Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines. But the prosecution has asked for a lengthier sentence, arguing that there were children present at the scene, that Mr. Chauvin treated Mr. Floyd with “particular cruelty” and that he “abused his position of authority.”
The judge will sentence Mr. Chauvin, 45, in eight weeks.
George Floyd, 46, was a grandfather, a rapper known as Big Floyd and a security guard who had lost his job during the coronavirus pandemic. On the day he died — May 25, 2020 — the Minneapolis police responded to a call saying that he had used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes at a corner store, Cup Foods.
34 minutes ago
- Attorney General Merrick Garland announces an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department.
- In Harlem, the Chauvin verdict represents ‘a little bit of justice.’
- As the Chauvin verdict was about to be read, the police killed a teenage girl in Ohio.
When Mr. Floyd said, “You’re going to kill me, man,” Mr. Chauvin replied: “Then stop talking, stop yelling. It takes a heck of a lot of oxygen to talk.”
Mr. Chauvin continued to kneel on him for about three minutes after Mr. Floyd drew his final breath, according to expert testimony.
Key Coverage of The Trial of Derek Chauvin
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The four officers involved were fired the next day. The other three — Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao — have been charged with aiding and abetting murder and are expected to be tried in August.
Prosecutors began their case against Mr. Chauvin with a series of eyewitnesses to Mr. Floyd’s death, who offered emotional testimony about the trauma and guilt they were left with.
While Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric J. Nelson, attempted to paint those bystanders — who had been out to buy a cellphone cord or a drink, or just to take a walk — as a dangerous and unruly mob, each offered an account of the desperation and helplessness he or she felt watching Mr. Floyd become unconscious beneath the officer’s knee.
“They saw that a human being they did not know was suffering,” Jerry W. Blackwell, one of the prosecutors, said in his closing argument, calling them a “bouquet of humanity.” He added, “And they wanted to try to intervene to stop the suffering.”
One of the witnesses that day, Charles McMillian, broke down on the witness stand as he recalled seeing Mr. Floyd cry out for “Mama.” Another witness, Darnella Frazier, who recorded the cellphone video that was viewed by millions, said she regretted that she had not done more to try to save Mr. Floyd.
“It’s been nights I stayed up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” Ms. Frazier said.
The trial was held in a closely guarded government building surrounded by high temporary fencing. Jurors were kept anonymous to protect them from potential threats. Because of the pandemic, Judge Cahill allowed the proceedings to be livestreamed, an exception to Minnesota’s strict rules governing cameras in the courtroom. Jurors sat in chairs spaced six feet apart instead of close together in a traditional jury box, and only two spectators — one from Mr. Floyd’s family, one from Mr. Chauvin’s — were allowed to be present at a time.
The case continues to have broad effects on Minneapolis, where more than 1,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed by vandalism and looting in the unrest that followed Mr. Floyd’s death. The Third Precinct building, which was set on fire, is boarded up. The intersection where Mr. Floyd was killed remains closed to traffic. And the city has endured an agonizing debate over the future of its Police Department.
Community activists celebrated the verdict, albeit gingerly. It was “one trial and one moment in history,” Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights lawyer, said on Minnesota Public Radio. “However, this moment didn’t happen because the system worked,” she added. “This moment happened because the people put in the work. We had to demand justice and accountability.”
Mr. Ellison, whose office prosecuted the case, called it an “inflection point” and called for a broader shift in how the police interact with the communities they serve.
“Although a verdict alone cannot end their pain, I hope it’s another step on the long path toward healing for them,” Mr. Ellison said of the Floyd family. “There is no replacing your beloved Perry, or Floyd, as his friends called him, but he is the one who sparked a worldwide movement, and that’s important.”
Before a jury had even been assembled, the prosecution, the defense and the judge sought to keep the trial’s symbolic heft out of the courtroom.
With strong public opinions and an inescapable torrent of media coverage, the judge allotted three weeks for jury selection, allowing each side to question potential jurors one on one to determine if they could set aside their feelings about the case.
More than 300 Hennepin County residents summoned for jury duty filled out 14-page questionnaires asking them what they knew about the case and what their opinions were on the Black Lives Matter movement, the protests unleashed by Mr. Floyd’s death and policing in general.
Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer, Mr. Nelson, suggested to potential jurors that perhaps “this case is not about race at all.” During opening arguments he said, “There is no political or social cause in this courtroom.”
The prosecution, for its part, said that policing itself was not on trial. “The defendant is on trial not for being a police officer — it’s not the state versus the police,” Steve Schleicher, a lawyer for the state, said in his closing argument. “He’s not on trial for who he was. He’s on trial for what he did.”
The 12-person jury included three Black men, one Black woman and two women who identified as multiracial.
The trial centered on two issues: whether what Mr. Chauvin had done was reasonable given the situation, and whether he had caused Mr. Floyd’s death. The defense argued that Mr. Floyd’s heart disease, high blood pressure and other health conditions, as well as his use of methamphetamine and fentanyl, contributed to his death.
Though it presented dozens of witnesses, the prosecution ultimately asked jurors to focus on the central piece of evidence: the video taken by Ms. Frazier, which was shown repeatedly in court. “Believe your eyes,” the jury was told.
“This case is exactly what you thought when you saw it first, when you saw that video,” Mr. Schleicher said in the closing argument. “It’s what you felt in your gut. It’s what you now know in your heart.”
Reporting was contributed by Andrés R. Martínez, Will Wright, Marie Fazio, Lucy Tompkins and Katie Rogers.
John Eligon is a Kansas City-based national correspondent covering race. He previously worked as a reporter in Sports and Metro, and his work has taken him to Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa and the Winter Olympics in Turin. @jeligon
Tim Arango is a Los Angeles correspondent. Before moving to California, he spent seven years as Baghdad bureau chief and also reported on Turkey. He joined The Times in 2007 as a media reporter. @tarangoNYT
Shaila Dewan is a national reporter and editor covering criminal justice issues including prosecution, policing and incarceration. @shailadewan
Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs reports on national news. He is from upstate New York and previously reported in Baltimore, Albany, and Isla Vista, Calif. @nickatnews
. . .
By Azi Paybarah, April 20, 2021, The New York Times
The Minneapolis Police Department’s initial inaccurate and misleading description of George Floyd’s death last May “might have become the official account” of what took place, had it not been for video taken by a teenage bystander, Keith Boykin, a CNN commentator, wrote on Twitter.
The video, taken by Darnella Frazier, emerged the night of Mr. Floyd’s death and drove much of the public’s understanding of what took place. Chief Medaria Arradondo of the police department testified at Mr. Chauvin’s trial that within hours of Mr. Floyd’s death he received a text from a local resident telling him about the video.
Later, Chief Arradondo, who testified as a witness for the prosecution at Mr. Chauvin’s trial, praised Ms. Frazier for her actions.
[Transcript of Video at article link above. From Rodney King to George Floyd: Reliving the Scars of Police Violence. The murder trial of Derek Chauvin is at the center of a national reckoning on race and policing. But cycles of protests over systemic racism and policing are not new. We watched the trial with the families of Rodney King, Oscar Grant and Stephon Clark to see this moment in history through their eyes.]
After the guilty verdict was announced Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Boykin and others on social media recirculated the police department’s initial account of events. To many, it was further reason not to place full trust in the narratives offered by police officials, and underscored the need for independent video of police actions.
“Seriously, read it again knowing what we know,” Jake Tapper, the CNN host, wrote on Twitter.
The initial news release, posted on the police department’s website, is titled “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction.” It said Mr. Floyd, who was not identified by name, “physically resisted officers” on the scene who had ordered him out of his vehicle. “Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress,” the release said.
The officers called for an ambulance and Mr. Floyd was taken to the Hennepin County Medical Center, where he died, it said.
Then, in a separate one-sentence paragraph, the department said, “At no time were weapons of any type used by anyone involved in this incident.”
State officials were investigating the episode and body cameras had been activated, the release said. It also noted, “No officers were injured in the incident.”
Ms. Frazier’s video helped shatter that narrative, and showed Mr. Chauvin kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
Police officials from major cities across the country, who usually support each other especially in times of crises, welcomed the verdict against a former member of their ranks.
Commissioner Dermot Shea of the New York Police Department, by far the largest in the country, said on Twitter, “Justice has been served.” Superintendent Shaun Ferguson of the New Orleans Police Department said the verdict “is justice delivered.”
Chief Troy Finner of the Houston Police Department said, “Sometimes justice takes a little while, but it’s going to get there.” He added, “If there is anybody in the city who wants to celebrate, we are going to be there with you.” But, he said, “Do it the right way.”
In Seattle, the police department said, “Mr. Floyd’s murder was a watershed moment for this country” and added: “From that pain, though, real change has begun.”
And in Oakland, Calif., the police department called for people to be “compassionate, empathic, and forgiving.” It also said, “Together we will work towards rethinking policing in America.”
Last year, Ray Kelly, who retired in 2013 after serving 12 years as the New York City police commissioner, told The Wall Street Journal, “This is the worst act of police brutality that I’ve seen.”
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