Framing – George Floyd

This morning the trial of Derek Chauvin begins in downtown Minneapolis.

Just now, 5 a.m. CDT, March 29, 2021, I browsed my photo files for the first and last pictures I took during the past 10 months which related to the killing of George Floyd at 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis, MN, May 25, 2020.  Here they are:

Monument to Minnesota Workers at Minnesota State Capitol Grounds May 26, 2020

Black Lives Matter flag atop the administrative office of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church 2730 E 31st St. Minneapolis Mn Mar 21, 2021

George Floyd died on Memorial Day, May 25th, 2020, in front of Cup Foods, at 38th and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis MN.

The morning I took the first photo above, May 26, 2020, I decided to drive over to 38th and Chicago to see the scene, where George Floyd had died.  I recall getting within a half block of Chicago on 38th.  I didn’t stop, get out of the car, or attempt to walk to the corner.  An orderly crowd had gathered, and a man was speaking.  Enroute to the site, I’d passed by the site of the Third Precinct – at the time, I didn’t know there was a police station there – and I remember seeing a young man with a protest sign walking down the street towards it.  The scene had not yet turned to the chaos that came later.

Fast forward.

Yesterday, we drove over to the site of the former Gandhi Mahal restaurant at 27th and E Lake Street and the surrounding area which was devastated in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing.

Today, the neighborhood is showing very visible signs of deep renewal.  There is a long ways to go, but a casual visitor with no knowledge of the events of the week of May 25, 2020, would be forgiven if they didn’t notice much, though there remain a couple of buildings, badly damaged last year, for whom some unknown decisions remain to be made.

Let’s work towards a better world in the infinite ways available to each one of us.

In peace.

Third Precinct, March 27, 2021

Carver Park Trail May 29, 2020

9:30 p.m. March 29: I didn’t watch much of this first day today, and probably won’t watch much later either.

The actors are all wired in – jury et al are likely nearby in other rooms, social distancing as required.  But this is probably a trial being watched nationwide particularly by those whose trade is the Law.  This is an important case.

The beauty, and the frustration, of the American criminal justice system is that it is an adversary process where, in the ideal, the playing field for accuser and accused is essentially equal.  The accuser needs to prove his or her case; the accused does not have to prove his or her innocence.  This is sometimes a difficult concept to understand in our polarized society, where it is possible to live within an echo chamber where the only case is the one in which your personal position prevails, and the others position is at best minimized.

The practitioners know the rules and the process.  And in the end a jury of citizens will rule on guilt or innocence.  It is not a perfect system, but it beats the alternative.

Letter to the editor, Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 30, 2021

I’m watching very little of the actual testimony, on purpose.  Of course, the analyses is typically “coulda, woulda, shoulda” – what they must do…which is of course from the point of view of the commentator.  In the end, the jury decides.

POSTNOTE MARCH 31: Just Above Sunset, “Choosing the Reckoning”

Postnote April 2, 2021:  Yesterday was drug day at the trial.  More to be said, later.

Postnote April 3, 2021: an excellent commentary from Charles Pierce of Esquire, passed along by Joyce.  Top headline in this mornings Minneapolis Star Tribune: “Totally Unnecessary”

Postnote April 7, 2021: The trial proceeds.  I watch off and on, but mostly rely on summaries.  Today, expert witnesses for the Prosecution.

The day the trial goes to the Jury for decision, I’ll give personal predictions.  I am waiting to see when or if either side will address one particular aspect of this case which was highly publicized within the first month after George Floyd was killed.  That’s all I’ll say.

Yesterday I spent about an hour with a man I’d never met, and in the course of conversation he raised the ‘racism’ issue.  He’s white probably in 50s from a rural environment in a neighboring state who at one point lived in the general neighborhood of 38th and Chicago.  I thought we had a very good conversation.  He had his own feelings and impressions.  There was no argument.  He trusted me to say what he felt.  I’ll leave it at that.

Our conversation, and surrounding and allied observations cause me to re-recommend a Racism series I was involved in at the beginning of the pandemic In February, 2020.  The six part in-person series had to be cancelled after session three, and the remaining classes were presented virtually.  They remain accessible on-line here scroll down to Featured Resources, “Becoming Human”.  This series is available at no-cost with a code available at the site.  The series is all by white professors at the University of St. Thomas, so it has a white “spin”, which is intentional.  It gives a great deal of food for thought.

Postnote April 10, 2021:  I continue to keep tabs on the trial.  This morning I gave an opportunity to others on my list to give pre-Jury feedback.  Any of these comments will be included here.  Personally, this week we watched the three-part Ken Burns series “Hemingway”.  I didn’t follow Hemingway’s personal life, which ended by suicide when I was in college – he died at 61.  Ironically, the series paralleled the phase of the trial that dealt with things like addiction and drugs and George Floyd, which will likely be used as mitigating factors in defense of Derek Chauvin’s action.  Addiction was more than a bit player in Hemingway’s life as well, and a major player in his life story, but somehow there is a difference in how it is portrayed in the differing worlds of Floyd and Hemingway….

from David: I think like any concerned person, I’m fearful for the verdict the jury will render. Despite the excellent case the attorneys from Keith Ellison’s office have presented, there are still two major roadblocks to conviction (1) 1989 Graham vs. O’Connor SCOTUS ruling (How the Supreme Court Gave Cops a License to Kill), and (2) qualified immunity.

And while I understand the necessary role of a good defense attorney, I don’t appreciate it when they imply the victim is on trial, he was on drugs, or pull out the super negro argument (The Myth of the Supernegro Comes to Derek Chauvin’s Defense.)

from Bill: Hi Dick!  I wrote this last week on my FB [Facebook] page: As many have said “George Floyd is not on trial, Derek Chauvin is!”  Floyd may have been under ill effects of narcotic drugs at the time.  The police exasperated his condition and caused his death no matter what.  If Floyd was dying due to his own actions, he should have received proper medical attention in any case at the time it was required and not 4 minutes after he was already dead.

from Christina and Lillian: Lillian and I have been zooming in to prayer healingourcity.org at 8am every morning since the beginning of the trial.  It is a virtual tent with 1/2 hour of African American lead prayer for healing.  Starts with 10 min of input- reflection followed by 9 min and 29 seconds of silent prayer then music.  We have both found it healing and inspiring.  There are usually over 200 people on from all over.  When Krista Tippet gave the presentation I think there were over 350 people on.

from Larry:  Personally, the docs testifying for the prosecution this week sealed it. No call for the knee-happy cop to do what he did.

POSTNOTE April 15, 2021:  We returned last night after a four day trip to rural Minnesota, taking home our 94 year old friend  who’d been visiting family in Minneapolis.  It was the first trip out of town since Covid-19 pandemic.  Indeed, the last trip was to visit the same person in the same town in January, 2020.  Time flies.

Of course, most everyone is wired similarly these days – the same news we see here, they see there, and I followed the trial as I had done here – intermittently and casually: live courtroom, but no newspaper or internet.

When we left for home, the Defense was presenting its witnesses.  Today or tomorrow it may complete its case, then the process begins to the Jury phase, where a panel of citizens renders the final verdict.

This will be the final postnote until the verdict is announced.

Of course, in the time of our trip, another tragedy intervened, the Daunte Wright killing at a traffic stop in suburban Brooklyn Center, 10 miles or so from the Derek Chauvin trial.  Today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune banner headline “Manslaughter charge” with a mugshot photo of the 26-year policewoman Kimberley A. Potter.

You know as much as I do.

In peace.

POSTNOTE April 19, 2021:  It’s 4:20 pm. CDT.  The day has been spent with closing arguments.  I have only listened to small parts of this.  The arguments are to the Jury who will make the decision.  I remember a friend first telling me the elements of a good talk.  “Tell them what you’re going to say, say it, then tell them what you said.”  It is good advice for all of us.  The Citizen Jury will judge.  It is imperfect but better than the alternative of someone arbitrarily deciding one’s fate.

My thoughts this day turn to a past case I’m well aware of, from 10 years ago. It was a family matter, in a very real sense.  An infant in the care of a baby sitter – my grandniece – died of what was alleged to be ‘shaken baby’.  The state prosecuted the babysitter.  There was a long, tense, Jury Trial, and in the end, the babysitter was acquitted.  One family won, the other lost.  Everybody lost.

I am sure that there remains residual PTSD.  Some family members may, in fact read this post.

The circumstances in both cases – Floyd, and my relative – were much the same.  Someone died at the hands of someone else, and didn’t deserve to die.  The Defense side prevailed.  The Prosecution side was more than disappointed.

The funeral was in January, 2011, long before the trial.  It was a very large funeral.  There was much to remember.  What was most striking at this funeral was the attendance of a large number of police officers from varied constituencies.

The Dad of the infant was a colleague policeman.  The babysitter was a relative of his.

In the case before us, a decision will soon be made, and the decision will be argued.  All I can hope for is that enough people make a decision to learn from this terribly difficult experience.  We cannot bring back George Floyd; and there is no more punishment that can be meted out against Derek Chauvin, and perhaps his colleagues.  We all need to grow.

7:45 p.m. April 19, and early April 20, 2021 – How would I rule, if in the Jury?  I did not hear or experience most of the evidence and testimony.  I respect the process of Law, and the code which has evolved imperfectly over the centuries.

Were I in the Jury, the easy question for me would be about murder: Officer Chauvin killed George Floyd.  I would vote to convict, based on what I know.  Floyd’s death was a homicide, totally uncalled for.

Impacting my personal judgement is an earlier conviction of another Minneapolis policeman, Mohammed Noor, who killed a white woman in a late night incident in an alley in south Minneapolis in 2017.  I personally saw that incident as an accident in an extremely stressful situation for both the police and the victim.  Those of us who live here know the story.  In June, 2019, Noor was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison.

Beyond Floyd/Chauvin, the surrounding American society questions are far more complicated and compelling.  I haven’t and probably won’t see Chauvin as a reprehensible individual; and I’ve had some empathy with the other three cops on the scene: the two rookies and the other veteran are still largely a blank page for me.

The general environment at the time of the incident was pretty normal, it appears to me, and not hostile to the police, rather concern at what the bystanders were witnessing.  Floyd was killed on Memorial Day.  By no means was he the only American ‘high’ on something on May 25, or on any other day, for example.

In my memory, I think Chauvin and Floyd knew each other, possibly working  together, at least for the same employer, in some context, possibly bouncer/security at a club at some point.  I seem to recall that from a long newspaper article in the early weeks after his death last year.  There may have been some ‘bad blood’.  On the other hand, I don’t recall either prosecution nor defense making any issue of this, so my memory, or earlier reports might be faulty.

In my opinion, our system, writ large, all of us, is the culprit.

It is how we operate as a society, together.  It is who we elect, and for what reasons we elect them.  Whether we even bother to vote.  Who we blame.  What policies and laws our elected representatives enact and enforce, which police often are called upon to enforce, and which same police are as imperfect as the rest of us.  A downside of Democracy is that we are all responsible for the results.  In a sense we all killed George Floyd May 25, 2020.

I was impressed with the Judge, and the team for the prosecution and the defense.  Whatever the outcome, I think I’ll be able to stand in support of the rule of law, and to stand for compassion and even forgiveness.

I’ve said it before, often, and I will say it again.  The future is all of us, working together, one action at a time.  The verdict on George Floyd will begin our task, not end it.

6:45 a.m. April 22, 2021:  My last action yesterday afternoon was to send a 57 page booklet prepared for a meeting on May 1, 2018, to the Catholic bishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis Diocese, and six Parish priests I know.  The focus of the booklet was World Citizenship and The Forgiveness Project.  My hope is that each of them find one or two useful morsels within.  The booklet itself was generated out of the Declaration of Minneapolis and Hennepin County as a World Citizenship Community on May 1, 1968.  It was an immensely impressive event, participated in by political leaders of the Republicans and Democrats and all of the major civic organization leaders.  It had meaning.  It was symbolically killed in March, 2012, and I hope that it is, someday, resurrected.

The statement by Fr. Harry Bury at the April 19 blog particularly resonate with me.  We have too much of a tendency of lurching from side to side – winner over loser – a game that ultimately makes us all losers.

I have a lot of confidence that the overwhelming majority of the persons who won on Tuesday, April 20, really  all simply want justice and for everyone to, as Rodney King so famously said, “just get along”.

The extent of the punishment Derek Chauvin and his colleagues on May 25 receive is not yet known.  I am not in the camp of those who want him to get the maximum and worst punishment.  I think a reasonable middle ground will be found.

We can put the event of May 25, 2020, and succeeding days, behind us.  We do not, and will not, forget it.  Neither can we controlled by its negativity.  We need to find a solution.  I recommend visiting the Forgiveness Project website.  And pondering how we can truly move on.

Minnesota Declarations of World Citizenship 1965-71:  Minnesota Declarations002

 

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