Things That Matter

Justice Requires Dismantling The System That Has Long Killed Black And Brown Bodies

After three weeks, the criminal trial of Derek Chauvin came to an end last Tuesday. A tears rolled down faces  crowd gathered in the Twin Cities. There was jubilation in the streets, an overwhelming sigh of relief. They chanted justice.

The jury’s deliberation was not long, leaving some that perhaps it was not enough time. To even think the worst perfectly exemplifies how rotten our system is. We expect so little because police accountability is slim to none.

Upon the announcement, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi released a statement saying, “Thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice. For being there to call out to your mom.”

She continued her statement saying, “because of you and because of thousands, millions of people around the world who came out for justice, your name will always be synonymous with justice.”

Pelosi immediately received backlash for her remarks. George Floyd did not die for a cause. He was not a martyr nor a pawn in the dismantling of white supremacy. He was a victim of it.

The ends do not justify the means. One sigh of relief does not compare to the numbness and contempt for a system that will strike again. That verdict was the bare minimum a system can do for George Floyd’s family.

A glimmer of hope consumed by systematic madness.

The system of policing is rooted in white supremacy.

The history of policing in American society is inherently racist. The issue is not about differentiating good cops from “a few bad apples.” It’s about acknowledging a system that was created to target Black and Brown communities.

During slavery, the role of law enforcement existed within slave catcher roles heavily prominent in the South. Following the passing of the 13th Amendment came the rise of Jim Crow, a codified system of racial apartheid. Now, modern-day policing is crafty but nevertheless remains brutal.

According to a Washington Post database, nearly 1,000 people are shot and killed by police annually.

In 2021 so far, 335 people have died due to police violence.

In the past year, the nation was rocked by Black “trauma porn” that sparked outrage and protests.

The streets were filled to the brim as bodies marched in solidarity for Black lives, chanting “no justice, no peace.”

Following the Chauvin verdict, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said, “I would not call today’s verdict justice, however, because justice implies true restoration. But it is accountability, which is the first step toward justice.”

Out of all police killings that took place between 2013-2020, 98.3 percent of officers are not charged with a crime.

Derek Chauvin is the first white officer in Minnesotan history to be convicted for the murder of a Black man.

Accountability does not equal justice.

The steps to reform can’t be simplified by one thing. But in order to see some change, we must end a legal doctrine called ‘qualified immunity.’

Qualified immunity is the rule that protects government employees from civil lawsuits that accuse them of violating a plaintiff’s constitutional rights unless the violation was “clearly established.”

How does one know if an action warrants qualified immunity? Appellate courts use a two-part system to consider whether immunity for excessive force should be granted.

  • First, courts must consider whether police used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. If not, qualified immunity is immediately granted.
  • The second step requires courts to determine whether a cop should have been aware that their actions were unlawful. If so, the case goes to trial.

In 2020, Reuters released a special report examining 252 cases from 2015 to 2019 where plaintiffs wanted to abolish qualified immunity.

More than half of the cases from this report saw granted immunity for excessive police force. Since 2005 courts “have shown an increasing tendency to grant immunity in excessive force cases,” and the numbers keep escalating.

As the nation awaited a verdict another shooting occurred.

Minutes before the verdict was announced police were called to investigate a disturbance in Columbus, Ohio.

Responding to an altercation involving a knife and two other girls, Ma’Khia Bryant was shot four times by police.

Rushed to the hospital in critical condition, Bryant died from her injuries. She was only 16. She was a child.

Police released bodycam footage that appeared to show Bryant’s attempt to stab another girl when she was fatally shot.

In a news conference, Mayor Andrew Ginther said “the officer took action to protect another young girl in the community.”

But was the deadly force necessary?

Police training includes an often misunderstood rule called the “21-foot rule. The 21-foot-rule states that an officer is in potential danger when they are within 21 feet of an armed person with a knife.

To be clear, this distance is not a green light to use deadly force. Instead, it is an informal rule that is meant to establish a “safety zone. However, this instead serves to dissuade de-escalation tactics. It creates a mentality that justifies unnecessary deadly force.

Four shots, let alone one, was too many. Ma’Khia Bryant should’ve been able to live to see another day.

What about de-escalation training?

In high-risk scenarios, the police arrive under the presumption that they are able to de-escalate a situation without excessive force. But one can’t count on training alone to prompt police reform and behavioral change.

The sight of a potential weapon often incites a fearful and forceful reaction from police officers who are reactionary and guarded.

Regardless of whether a weapon is identifiable or not, the primary intention of police intervention is supposed to be the preservation of life.

Not all precincts view de-escalation training the same, nor is it afforded the same dedication as other use-of-force training.

In a 2015 survey by the Police Executive Research Forum, each recruit received only eight hours’ worth of de-escalation training. This includes crisis intervention, de-escalation, use-of-force policy, and electronic control weapons. This is in comparison to the 58 hours spent on firearms training and 49 hours spent on defensive tactics.

Nationwide, those who suffer from severe mental illnesses are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter. Factor in racial bias and the risk to dial 911 amidst a crisis is considerably higher.

Unfortunately, legal policies in some states mandate police interaction before family members can get their loved ones to receive treatment.

In Georgia, a person must pose an “imminent threat” to themselves and others before being involuntarily hospitalized. An issue that may prompt excessive force with police interaction while also delaying a loved one’s urgency for immediate treatment.

However, in places like Chicago, a pilot program was proposed to have police and mental health professionals ‘co-respond’ to such incidents.

Nevertheless, mistrust will continue to permeate each interaction.

Ideally what is justice?

Justice would be that George Floyd, someone’s father, brother, loving partner would still be alive. It would be that Daunte Wright could eventually turn 21 and be with his son. Justice is Breonna Taylor waking up the next morning. It is Adam Toledo being able to grow up.

Tamir Rice like so many other children deserved to be able to play with toy guns. Daniel Prude was having an episode and needed help. Elijah McClain was introverted and minding his business.

Justice is being able to walk on the streets at any time of day without fear. It is being able to drive without fearing a cop might kill you at a traffic stop. Justice is simply being able to breathe.

No warrant, misdemeanor, or previous record should incentivize force.

This fragment of ‘accountability’ does not diminish the lack of mercy and preventability of each injustice. The trauma and anger will not go away as parents still have to teach their children what to do when they encounter a police officer.

“Justice” is defunding the police, holding them accountable, and eliminating qualified immunity. It is abolishing a racist system that has failed time and time again.

Until there is justice, there is no true peace.

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After Being Kneeled On By Police, People Are Comparing This Latino Man’s Death to George Floyd

Things That Matter

After Being Kneeled On By Police, People Are Comparing This Latino Man’s Death to George Floyd

Photo via GoFundMe

Mario Gonzalez’s family is asking for answers after the 26-year-old Latino man died after a “scuffle” with the police. Because of the circumstances surrounding Gonzalez’s death, people are comparing his death to George Floyd’s.

Three Bay Area police officers kneeled on Gonzalez’s back and shoulders for five minutes before he became unresponsive and died. In a statement, the police said his death was caused by a “medical emergency.”

“Officers attempted to detain [Mario Gonzalez], and a physical altercation ensued,” the statement read. “At that time, the man had a medical emergency. Officers immediately began lifesaving measures and requested the Alameda Fire Department to the scene. The Alameda Fire Department transported the male to a local area hospital, where he later died.”

Mario Gonzalez was wandering around in a park, appearing disoriented and mumbling to himself when some bystanders called the police. “He seems like he’s tweaking, but he’s not doing anything wrong,” said the 911 caller. “He’s just scaring my wife.”

Gonzalez was unable to answer basic questions when police arrived at the scene. The interaction quickly escalated physically, with multiple officers wrestling him to the ground.

The Alameda Police Department released body cam footage that showed the entire interaction. “I’ve got to identify you, so I know who I’m talking to [and] make sure you don’t have any warrants or anything like that,” says one of the cops. “You come up with a plan, let me know you’re not going to be drinking in our parks over here, and then we can be on our merry way.”  

But Gonzalez could not–or would not–respond, at which point the cops attempted to handcuff him and wrestle him to the ground. Gonzalez resisted arrest, asking the police officers to stop while repeatedly and profusely apologizing. “I’m sorry,” Gonzalez says at one point, to which an officer responds: “It’s OK, alright? I forgive you.” Minutes later, he was dead.

“Everything we saw in that video was unnecessary and unprofessional,” said Mario’s brother, Gerardo Gonzalez, in a news conference. “The police killed my brother in the same manner that they killed George Floyd.”

“His death was completely avoidable and unnecessary,” said the Gonzalez’s attorney, Julia Sherwin, to The New York Times. “Drunk guy in a park doesn’t equal a capital sentence.” The three police officers involved in Gonzalez’s death are now on paid leave, according to AP News.

Police originally told the Gonzalez family that Mario died due to a “medical emergency” while in the custody of police. But after his family saw the video of his death, they realized the police had been stretching the truth. Mario Gonzalez was the father of a 4-year-old boy as well as the sole caretaker of his 23-year-old autistic brother.

The family has since set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to provide care and living expenses to Mario’s brother and son.

“Mario was not a violent person. Mario was kind. He helped my mom take care of our brother. He wouldn’t hurt anyone. Our family needs answers,” reads the campaign.

To many, Mario Gonzalez’s death further illustrates their belief that police officers should not be the ones responding to calls about people struggling with mental health or addiction crises.

“What happened to Mario Gonzalez should be a wake-up call to the city of Alameda,” said former Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell to KPIX 5 News. “You can’t have officers responding to people who are not aggressive, not threatening who are going through a mental health crisis.”

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At Least 17 Dead And Hundreds Injured Following Massive Protests Across Colombia

Things That Matter

At Least 17 Dead And Hundreds Injured Following Massive Protests Across Colombia

LUIS ROBAYO/AFP via Getty Images

A massive protest movement that swept across Colombia seems to have paid off – at least in the short term – as President Ivan Duque says that he will withdrawal the controversial tax plan that sent angry protesters into the streets. However, the protests claimed at least 17 victims who died during the unrest and hundreds more were injured.

Now that the president has withdrawn the controverial bill, many are wondering what’s next and will they have to take to the streets once again.

Massive protests claimed the lives of at least 17 people and hundreds more were injured across Colombia.

Unions and other groups kicked off marches on Wednesday to demand the government of President Ivan Duque withdraw a controversial tax plan that they say unfairly targets the most vulnerable Colombians.

Isolated vandalism, clashes between police and protesters and road blockades occurred in several cities on Saturday, and riot police were deployed in the capital.

Rights organization Human Rights Watch said it had received reports of possible police abuse in Cali, and local human rights groups alleged up to 17 deaths occurred.

After a week of protests, the government has shelved the controversial plan.

Faced with the unrest, the government of President Ivan Duque on Sunday ordered the proposal be withdrawn from Congress where it was being debated. In a televised statement, he said his government would work to produce new proposals and seek consensus with other parties and organizations.

President Duque, in his statement, acknowledged “it is a moment for the protection of the most vulnerable, an invitation to build and not to hate and destroy”.

“It is a moment for all of us to work together without paltriness,” he added. “A path of consensus, of clear perceptions. And it gives us the opportunity to say clearly that there will be no increase in VAT for goods and services.”

The tax reform had been heavily criticized for punishing the middle classes at a time of economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The government introduced the bill on April 15 as a means of financing public spending. The aim was to generate $6.3 billion between 2022 and 2031 to reignite the fourth largest economy in Latin America.

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