What if George Floyd’s killer is acquitted?

Anything less than a murder conviction will have explosive consequences.

SEAN COLLINS
US CORRESPONDENT 19th March 2021

What if George Floyd’s killer is acquitted?

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Minneapolis is on edge as the trial of Derek Chauvin kicks off. Chauvin is the police officer who was caught on video last May with his knee on the neck of George Floyd, whose subsequent death ignited protests around the country and the world. Chauvin is now being tried for the murder and manslaughter of Floyd.

The threat of renewed rioting, arson and violence hangs over the legal proceedings. The courthouse is a fortress protected by cement barricades, razor-wire fencing and military vehicles. Hundreds of protesters, dressed in black, stare down National Guard troops. ‘Justice by any means necessary’, they shout.

In ‘George Floyd Square’, the area surrounding where Floyd died, the gangs in control have declared it an ‘autonomous zone’, like the ‘CHAZ’ in Seattle’s Capitol Hill area. They vow to keep the area closed until the Chauvin verdict is declared.

The largely black-owned businesses in the square have been boarded up since last summer’s destruction. Police and visitors are not welcome. ‘You come out here, it’s like Mexico’, said Just Turkey owner Sam Willis Jr. ‘A person can commit a crime on 37th Street [just outside the square], and if they run over here, the police are not going to come.’ Gunshots can be heard every day, and people have been killed. A city council member tells of her constituents who live in fear, like ‘the black elderly woman who has to sleep in her bathtub so she can avoid being shot at night’, and the residents ‘who text me when there’s bullets zinging by their faces in the middle of the day as they’re gardening’. City officials – the same ones who allowed a police precinct to be burned down last summer, and who cut police funding in the aftermath – are also too timid to reopen the square.

These ominous scenes in the city are already affecting the proceedings. As jurors are currently being selected, many have expressed fears that they could face attacks or other repercussions after the verdict. ‘I just wouldn’t want any issues or harm to come to my wife or my family’, said one potential juror.

The Chauvin trial is one of the most high-profile in the history of US race relations. The case is ‘one of the most important civil-rights cases in the last 100 years’, says Benjamin Crump, the lawyer for Floyd’s family. ‘It is the Emmet Till of today’, adds Crump, referring to the black teenager who was murdered in Mississippi in 1955.

Indeed, the case of George Floyd is much more than one black person who died after an interaction with the police. Floyd’s death is the foundation for a broader narrative about race in America. That narrative goes something like this: Chauvin murdered Floyd because he was black; his murder was typical of the violence the police mete out to black people routinely; this institutionalised police racism is itself a reflection of the pervasive racism that exists throughout American society; and all white people are responsible for the ‘white supremacist’ society they benefit from.

Since Floyd’s death, various institutions, from government to corporations to cultural centres, embraced this narrative and have sought to transform society accordingly. Following academic concepts like ‘equity’, companies have introduced hiring quotas based on race and have forced workers to attend white-shaming training sessions. Schools have adopted ‘anti-racist’ lessons that aim to turn youngsters into activists. Books have been banned, streets renamed, statues toppled. All in the name of rectifying the racism exposed by the murder of one black man, George Floyd.

But what if Chauvin didn’t actually murder Floyd? That’s a question few Democrats, activists and media types are seriously considering. They don’t dare, because doing so could call into question the narrative and the ‘anti-racist’ project that is built on Floyd’s death.

Many leading political figures assume the Chauvin case is an open and shut one. Vice president Kamala Harris said Chauvin ‘clearly committed murder’. On Monday, Minneapolis city officials seemed to endorse Chauvin’s guilt when they agreed to a $27million settlement with Floyd’s family (it is unusual to reach a settlement before a criminal trial, and it certainly risks influencing jurors).

I’d venture that most Americans who watched the video of Chauvin with his knee on Floyd, for an excruciating eight minutes and forty-six seconds, will believe Chauvin is guilty of some crime. Listening to the media, that crime would have to be murder. But the defence has a much stronger case than we’re being led to believe.

Consider the officer body-cam video, released by the Daily Mail (as no US media would release it), showing that Floyd was in a stressed and drugged-up state from the time police approached him, some 20 minutes before Chauvin restrained him. That body-cam video also revealed Floyd resisting following police instructions, albeit not aggressively. And the defence will show that restraining an uncooperative suspect by using an officer’s knee was part of the Minneapolis police training programme.

Plus, the official autopsy found that Floyd died due to ‘cardiopulmonary arrest’, not asphyxiation from Chauvin pressing down on him. The chief medical examiner also pointed to the amount of the drug fentanyl there was in Floyd’s system: ‘If he were found dead at home alone and [there were] no other apparent causes, this could be acceptable to call [it] an [overdose].’ The toxicology report found Floyd had almost four times the level of fentanyl considered potentially lethal. Fentanyl would also cause breathing difficulties, and Floyd was saying ‘I can’t breathe’ well before Chauvin arrived on the scene.

Of course, such facts don’t prove the case one way or another, and no doubt more evidence will be introduced in the trial. But they should lead people to have a more open mind about Chauvin’s guilt, and whether that guilt rises to the level of murder. Watching that awful, horrible video, it’s clear to me that Chauvin is reckless – he’s negligent in ignoring Floyd’s pleas and spurning suggestions from a firefighter to help with Floyd’s breathing, and the force he is applying is excessive. But all of that arguably fits better with a manslaughter charge than murder. It’s noteworthy that the charge of third-degree murder was reintroduced to the case recently, which is easier to prove than the original second-degree murder charge.

Given this, you have to wonder: has the prosecution overreached in trying to convict Chauvin of murder? And did it do so for political reasons, to show its commitment to the broader anti-racism struggle? By reaching for a murder charge, the prosecution has raised the public’s expectations, while increasing the chances that Chauvin might be acquitted. Now, even if the jury finds Chauvin guilty of the crime of manslaughter, it will be viewed by some as a letdown and an injustice.

The media are doing the public a disservice by assuming Chauvin’s guilt, and not taking counter-arguments seriously. It needs to be said: it is possible that Chauvin may be acquitted of murder – and that might be a just outcome. Instead, we are in a situation where an acquittal of Chauvin is already considered – before he has even gone on trial, and before we or the jury have heard the evidence – as a totally unacceptable and unjust result.

What’s typically unsaid, but implied, is that anything less than a murder conviction and long prison sentence for Chauvin will be worthy of mass outrage, protest and rioting. By framing the Chauvin trial as an open-and-shut case of racist murder, political and media figures are effectively saying that rioting will be an understandable and justifiable response if the verdict is acquittal. Like Minneapolis officials who have constructed a militarised fortress around the courthouse, they are expecting a riot – and not just in Minneapolis. Last summer, liberal pundits rationalised and excused the riots and arson that took off across the country in the wake of Floyd’s death. Today they are green-lighting the riots before they happen.

Opening arguments in the Chauvin trial are scheduled to start on 29 March, and the trial is likely to last for months. The proceedings will be televised, and the public will be watching closely. It’s going to be a challenging time, and we can expect that people hearing the same evidence will reach different conclusions. Simplistic arguments from political actors pursuing an agenda will only exacerbate tensions and divide us further.

Sean Collins is a writer based in New York. Visit his blog, The American Situation.

What if George Floyd’s killer is acquitted? – spiked (spiked-online.com)

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Kenny Wayne Shepherd responds to rescinded Blues Music Award nomination

As Martel observes even Stalin went along with the pretence of a trial but in today’s woke world mere inference is enough to serve as the passing of a sentence with the verdict pre-ordained as ‘guilty’

News

March 19, 2021

 

The Blues Foundation announced that they have rescinded Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s 2021 Blues Music Award nomination for “Best Blues Rock Artist.”

The foundation released the following statement, “The decision to rescind the nomination was based upon continuing revelations of representations of the Confederate flag on Shepherd’s “General Lee” car, guitars and elsewhere.  The Blues Foundation has also asked Ken Shepherd, father of Kenny Wayne Shepherd, to step down as a member of its Board of Directors.  The Blues Foundation states that it is resolute in its commitment to purposefully address racism and contribute to a more equitable blues community.”

The Blues Foundation’s statement also said, “The Blues Foundation unequivocally condemns all forms and expressions of racism, including all symbols associated with white supremacy and the degradation of people of color.  We will hold ourselves as well as all blues musicians, fans, organizations, and members of the music industry accountable for racist actions and encourage concrete commitments to acknowledge and redress the resulting pain.”

Shepherd took to Facebook to respond and released the following statement saying,https://46f63756095ec4a901cd0cfd62145617.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

“We have been told this decision has been made because in recent days, concerns have been raised regarding one of the cars in my muscle car collection. The car was built 17 years ago as a replica and homage to the iconic car in the television series, The Dukes of Hazzard. That CBS show was one of the highest rated and most popular programs of its era and like millions of others, I watched it every week. In the show, one of the central ‘characters’ was a muscle car which displayed a confederate flag on its roof. Years ago I put that car in permanent storage and some time ago, I made the decision to permanently cover the flag on my car because it was completely against my values and offensive to the African American community which created the music I love so much and I apologize to anyone that I have unintentionally hurt because of it.”

Shepherd concluded, “I want to make something very clear and unequivocal; I condemn and stand in complete opposition to all forms of racism and oppression and always have.”

Kenny Wayne Shepherd responds to rescinded Blues Music Award nomination – Blues Rock Review

Liberals want to blame rightwing ‘misinformation’ for our problems. Get real

Thomas Frank

Fri 19 Mar 2021

One day in March 2015, I sat in a theater in New York City and took careful notes as a series of personages led by Hillary Clinton and Melinda Gates described the dazzling sunburst of liberation that was coming our way thanks to entrepreneurs, foundations and Silicon Valley. The presentation I remember most vividly was that of a famous TV actor who rhapsodized about the wonders of Twitter, Facebook and the rest: “No matter which platform you prefer,” she told us, “social media has given us all an extraordinary new world, where anyone, no matter their gender, can share their story across communities, continents and computer screens. A whole new world without ceilings.”

Six years later and liberals can’t wait for that extraordinary new world to end. Today we know that social media is what gives you things like Donald Trump’s lying tweets, the QAnon conspiracy theory and the Capitol riot of 6 January. Social media, we now know, is a volcano of misinformation, a non-stop wallow in hatred and lies, generated for fun and profit, and these days liberal politicians are openly pleading with social media’s corporate masters to pleez clamp a ceiling on it, to stop peoplefrom sharing their false and dangerous stories.

A “reality crisis” is the startling name a New York Times story recently applied to this dismal situation. An “information disorder” is the more medical-sounding label that other authorities choose to give it. Either way, the diagnosis goes, we Americans are drowning in the semiotic swirl. We have come loose from the shared material world, lost ourselves in an endless maze of foreign disinformation and rightwing conspiracy theory.Advertisement

In response, Joe Biden has called upon us as a nation to “defend the truth and defeat the lies”. A renowned CNN journalist advocates a “harm reduction model” to minimize “information pollution” and deliver the “rational views” that the public wants. A New York Times writer has suggested the president appoint a federal “reality czar” who would “help” the Silicon Valley platform monopolies mute the siren song of QAnon and thus usher us into a new age of sincerity.

These days Democratic politicians lean on anyone with power over platforms to shut down the propaganda of the right. Former Democratic officials pen op-eds calling on us to get over free speech. Journalists fantasize about how easily and painlessly Silicon Valley might monitor and root out objectionable speech. In a recent HBO documentary on the subject, journalist after journalist can be seen rationalizing that, because social media platforms are private companies, the first amendment doesn’t apply to them … and, I suppose, neither should the American tradition of free-ranging, anything-goes political speech.

In the absence of such censorship, we are told, the danger is stark. In a story about Steve Bannon’s ongoing Trumpist podcasts, for example, ProPublica informs us that “extremism experts say the rhetoric still feeds into an alternative reality that breeds anger and cynicism, which may ultimately lead to violence”.


In liberal circles these days there is a palpable horror of the uncurated world, of thought spaces flourishing outside the consensus, of unauthorized voices blabbing freely in some arena where there is no moderator to whom someone might be turned in. The remedy for bad speech, we now believe, is not more speech, as per Justice Brandeis’s famous formula, but an “extremism expert” shushing the world.

What an enormous task that shushing will be! American political culture is and always has been a matter of myth and idealism and selective memory. Selling, not studying, is our peculiar national talent. Hollywood, not historians, is who writes our sacred national epics. There were liars-for-hire in this country long before Roger Stone came along. Our politics has been a bath in bullshit since forever. People pitching the dumbest of ideas prosper fantastically in this country if their ideas happen to be what the ruling class would prefer to believe.

Debunking” was how the literary left used to respond to America’s Niagara of nonsense. Criticism, analysis, mockery and protest: these were our weapons. We were rational-minded skeptics, and we had a grand old time deflating creationists, faith healers, puffed-up militarists and corporate liars of every description.

Censorship and blacklisting were, with important exceptions, the weapons of the puritanical right: those were their means of lashing out against rap music or suggestive plays or leftwingers who were gainfully employed.


What explains the clampdown mania among liberals? The most obvious answer is because they need an excuse. Consider the history: the right has enjoyed tremendous success over the last few decades, and it is true that conservatives’ capacity for hallucinatory fake-populist appeals has helped them to succeed. But that success has also happened because the Democrats, determined to make themselves the party of the affluent and the highly educated, have allowed the right to get away with it.

There have been countless times over the years where Democrats might have reappraised this dumb strategy and changed course. But again and again they chose not to, blaming their failure on everything but their glorious postindustrial vision. In 2016, for example, liberals chose to blame Russia for their loss rather than look in the mirror. On other occasions they assured one another that they had no problems with white blue-collar workers – until it became undeniable that they did, whereupon liberals chose to blame such people for rejecting them.

To give up on free speech is to despair of reason itself

And now we cluck over a lamentable “information disorder”. The Republicans didn’t suffer the landslide defeat they deserved last November; the right is still as potent as ever; therefore Trumpist untruth is responsible for the malfunctioning public mind. Under no circumstances was it the result of the Democrats’ own lackluster performance, their refusal to reach out to the alienated millions with some kind of FDR-style vision of social solidarity.

Or perhaps this new taste for censorship is an indication of Democratic healthiness. This is a party that has courted professional-managerial elites for decades, and now they have succeeded in winning them over, along with most of the wealthy areas where such people live. Liberals scold and supervise like an offended ruling class because to a certain extent that’s who they are. More and more, they represent the well-credentialed people who monitor us in the workplace, and more and more do they act like it.

What all this censorship talk really is, though, is a declaration of defeat – defeat before the Biden administration has really begun. To give up on free speech is to despair of reason itself. (Misinformation, we read in the New York Times, is impervious to critical thinking.) The people simply cannot be persuaded; something more forceful is in order; they must be guided by we, the enlightened; and the first step in such a program is to shut off America’s many burbling fountains of bad takes.

Let me confess: every time I read one of these stories calling on us to get over free speech or calling on Mark Zuckerberg to press that big red “mute” button on our political opponents, I feel a wave of incredulity sweep over me. Liberals believe in liberty, I tell myself. This can’t really be happening here in the USA.

But, folks, it is happening. And the folly of it all is beyond belief. To say that this will give the right an issue to campaign on is almost too obvious. To point out that it will play straight into the right’s class-based grievance-fantasies requires only a little more sophistication. To say that it is a betrayal of everything we were taught liberalism stood for – a betrayal that we will spend years living down – may be too complex a thought for our punditburo to consider, but it is nevertheless true.

  • Thomas Frank is the author of The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism. He is also a Guardian US columnist

Liberals want to blame rightwing ‘misinformation’ for our problems. Get real | Digital media | The Guardian

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