An unarmed and handcuffed suspect should be readily controllable on the ground without the need to kneel on his neck. Even the most dimwitted of jurors can apprehend that much. But in case it’s a problem, there’s video.
So this morning’s arrest of former police officer Derek Chauvin in the case of George Floyd’s death is the beginning of justice. It’s a charge of third-degree murder, carrying a maximum sentence of 25 years, and manslaughter. I don’t expect the former count to change to second- or first-degree murder, but news that the Floyd and Chauvin worked security at the same night club for several years casts an interesting light.
Witnesses and video do not show Floyd “resisting arrest” as the Minneapolis Police Department first asserted, presumably based the statements of the four on-scene officers who have now all been fired. The department has yet to release the body cam footage from the officers in question, but it’s likely to have played a role both in the arrest of Chauvin and in the dismissal of the other officers from the force.
The 911 call that brought the police does not paint a picture of a violent criminal. Not that it should matter, but Floyd was a really good guy. [Update: Well, a really good guy who served four years for armed robbery as well as other time for minor drug-related offenses. The accounts I’ve read say he turned his life around after that period. Regardless, this has no bearing on the situation at hand.] Even the shopkeeper who made the call reports seeing no effort by Floyd to resist arrest. News that Floyd was non-responsive for almost 3 minutes while Chauvin continued to kneel on his neck paints an ugly picture of Chauvin’s character, as does the previous record of 18 internal affairs complaints. Hiring standards at the Minneapolis Police Department clearly needed to be a lot higher, and firing standards a lot lower. I may not be a fan of affirmative action, but I’d go so far as to favor minority hiring quotas here. That’s how bad this situation is. (Presently around 18% of the population is Black and only about 9% of the cops.) When race is proven to make a difference, then taking race into account in hiring practices ought to be legal and accepted.
Perhaps the most surprising element of this story—and this racist tale of police brutality is one we’ve all heard before—is where it happened. If this had been in, say, rural Georgia, a lot of folks would have said, “Well, that’s the Deep South for you. Whatcha gonna do about Dixie?” But Minnesota? In Minneapolis?The city where Prince sang about purple rain and dreamed of a paisley park?
So one tries to reconcile the dissonance. Maybe it was just a few bad apples on the police force. Maybe Officer Chauvin was a bastard and the other officers were on the wrong call on the wrong night. A singular racist officer in Minneapolis looks a lot more comfortable in a white, middle America mirror.
But now we have video of multiple officers atop Floyd. And guess what happened this morning? Minnesota State Patrol arrested a black CNN reporter and his crew. On air. While his white colleague a block away went unmolested. There’s video and multiple witnesses of that, too:
State police detained CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez, his producer and his photojournalist shortly after 5 a.m. CT (6 a.m. ET) as Jimenez was reporting live from a street south of downtown, near where a police precinct building was earlier set ablaze.
Jimenez could be seen holding his CNN badge while reporting, identifying himself as a reporter, and telling the officers the crew would move wherever officers needed them to. An officer gripped his arm as Jimenez talked, then put him in handcuffs.
“We can move back to where you like. We are live on the air here. … Put us back where you want us. We are getting out of your way — wherever you want us (we’ll) get out of your way,” Jimenez said to police before he was led away.
“We were just getting out of your way when you were advancing through the intersection,” Jimenez continued.
Police told the crew they were being detained because they were told to move and didn’t, one member of the CNN crew relayed to the network.
I don’t know what the police are doing arresting members of the media in the first place. This isn’t a third-world dictatorship. But when Jimenz, who is Black and Latino, is arrested and nearby CNN reporter Josh Campbell, who is white, continues to report without issue, the racial double standard could not be any more plain.
Bakari Sellers is a CNN political analyst:
“We have a white reporter on the ground, and we have a brown reporter on the ground. They are a block apart. The brown reporter is arrested and the white reporter is telling us what’s happening,” Sellers said.
“We saw a reporter who is educated, who is brown, who is doing his job better than anybody … (who) was in harm’s way, letting the American people see what’s going on, on the ground. He complied. He said he would move. … You almost have to laugh not to just be furious.”
President Trump, as is his wont, has only exacerbated the problems and stoked the flames of racial resentment and division with his tweets. His disgusting acceptance of white suprematists over the years and especially as president has emboldened the worst racist trash in American society. Predictably, Trump’s tweets on George Floyd are no exception in terms of sowing discord. This one was even flagged by Twitter for inciting violence:
I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right. These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!
This incendiary rhetoric is not an accident. Just as the Black Lives Matter movement was propped up in 2016 by Russian political and military operatives, so too are the stories this year. Trump’s dwindling reelection chances make a “law-and-order” campaign fanned by racial conflict one of the few viable strategies he has. The Russians are happy to help, so expect to see a lot more of this type of thing on social media and in the news.
But Trump and his Russian trolls are only elevating an existing problem. The success of Black individuals from President Obama to Chris Rock to Halle Berry to Oprah to LeBron James (and on and on and on), in no way diminishes the reality for those minorities who are neither rich nor famous. The opportunity for success in America—that is real and continuing—has proved insufficient to alone overcome the blatant racism that exists in so many parts of the country and that has been normalized by the president.
What we’ll do about this remains to be seen. Among other things, the media, neighborhood surveillance video, and police body cams are putting us on a better path as a nation than we were on previously. It’s insufficient, but it’s progress. If it wasn’t enough to save George Floyd’s life, maybe it will be enough to bring his murderer(s) to justice.
It’s a beginning.