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Federal Grand Jury Indicts Four Ex-Cops In Floyd Murder​

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A federal grand jury has indicted the four former Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd's arrest and death, accusing them of willfully violating the Black man's constitutional rights as he was restrained face-down on the pavement and gasping for air.

A three-count indictment unsealed Friday names Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng, and Tou Thao. Chauvin was convicted last month on state charges of murder and manslaughter and is appealing. The other three are set for state trial on Aug. 23. It's not clear what will happen in this case, but generally the state charges play out before federal charges do.

The indictment sends a strong message about the Justice Department's priorities. Floyd's May 25 arrest and death, which a bystander captured on cellphone video, sparked mass protests nationwide that called for an end to racial inequalities and police mistreatment of Black people.

When President Joe Biden was elected, he promised he'd work to end disparities in the criminal justice system. The indictments were handed down about a week after federal prosecutors brought hate crimes charges in the death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and announced two sweeping probes into policing in two states.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said the federal charges against the officers show the Justice Department "does not excuse it nor allow police to act as though as what they do is acceptable behavior in the line of duty."

"What we couldn't get them to do in the case of Eric Garner, Michael Brown in Ferguson, and countless others, we are finally seeing them do today," Sharpton said.

Floyd, 46, died after Chauvin pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck, even as Floyd, who was handcuffed, repeatedly said he couldn't breathe. Kueng and Lane also helped restrain Floyd — state prosecutors have said Kueng knelt on Floyd's back and Lane held down Floyd's legs. State prosecutors say Thao held back bystanders and kept them from intervening during the 9 1/2-minute restraint.

Lane, Thao, and Kueng made initial court appearances Friday via videoconference in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, and remain free on bond. Chauvin is held in state custody as he awaits sentencing on the state charges and hasn't yet appeared in federal court.

While all four officers are charged broadly with depriving Floyd of his rights while acting under government authority, the indictment breaks down the counts. A count against Chauvin alleges he violated Floyd's right to be free from unreasonable seizure and from unreasonable force by a police officer.

Thao and Kueng are charged with violating Floyd's right to be free from unreasonable seizure by not intervening to stop Chauvin as he knelt on Floyd's neck. It's not clear why Lane, who held down Floyd's legs, is not mentioned in that count, but evidence in the state's case shows that Lane had asked twice whether Floyd should be rolled on his side. All four officers are charged for their failure to provide Floyd with medical care.

Chauvin was also charged in a second indictment, stemming from the use of force and neck restraint of a 14-year-old boy in 2017.

Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, argued during his murder trial that Chauvin acted reasonably and Floyd died because of underlying health issues and drug use. He has filed a request for a new trial.

Nelson had no comment on the federal charges. Kueng's attorney also had no comment. A message left for Thao's attorney wasn't immediately returned, and Lane's attorney was unable to talk when reached by The Associated Press, and messages left later were not returned.

Ben Crump and the team of attorneys for Floyd's family said the civil rights charges reinforce "the strength and wisdom" of the Constitution. "We are encouraged by these charges and eager to see continued justice in this historic case that will impact Black citizens and all Americans for generations to come," the attorneys said in a statement.

To bring federal charges in deaths involving police, prosecutors must believe an officer acted under the "color of law," or government authority, and willfully deprived someone of their constitutional rights. That's a high legal standard. An accident, bad judgment or simple negligence on the officer's part isn't enough to support federal charges; prosecutors have to prove the officer knew what he was doing was wrong in that moment but did it anyway.

The indictment in Floyd's death says Chauvin kept his left knee on Floyd's neck as he was handcuffed and unresisting. Thao and Kueng allegedly were aware Chauvin had his knee on Floyd's neck, even after Floyd became unresponsive, and "willfully failed to intervene to stop Defendant Chauvin's use of unreasonable force." All four officers are charged with willfully depriving Floyd of liberty without due process, including the right to be free from "deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs."

The other indictment, against Chauvin only, alleges he deprived a 14-year-old boy of his right to be free of unreasonable force when he held the teen by the throat, hit him in the head with a flashlight and held his knee on the boy's neck and upper back while he was prone, handcuffed and unresisting.

According to a police report from that 2017 encounter, Chauvin wrote that the teen resisted arrest and after the teen, whom he described as 6-foot-2 and about 240 pounds, was handcuffed, Chauvin "used body weight to pin" him to the floor. The boy was bleeding from the ear and needed two stitches.

That encounter was one of several mentioned in state court filings that prosecutors said showed Chauvin had used neck or head and upper body restraints seven times before dating back to 2014, including four times state prosecutors said he went too far and held the restraints "beyond the point when such force was needed under the circumstances."

Bob Bennett, an attorney for the teenager, said the "familiar behavior" from Chauvin showed Floyd wasn't his first victim.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office is prosecuting the state charges, said the federal government is responsible for protecting the civil rights of every American and "federal prosecution for the violation of George Floyd's civil rights is entirely appropriate."

Chauvin was convicted on state charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Experts say he will likely face no more than 30 years in prison when he is sentenced June 25. The other officers face charges alleging they aided and abetted second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Any federal sentence would be served at the same time as a state sentence.

At the White House on Friday, press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden didn't have a direct reaction to the indictments. She added that the George Floyd case was "a reminder of the need to put police reform in place through our legislative process."

This Whiteness Of Being

It's Wednesday morning. I sign into the eighth one-on-one student videoconference but immediately see that, on this call, with this cherished student, there's no oxygen for talking about the final, mundane details of spring semester. The young Black woman looking at me through the computer screen is in almost unspeakable pain.

We are meeting less than 24 hours after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on all counts for the murder last May of George Floyd. Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes. I always try to remember to include that because, in my experience, young people can't forget it, and neither should we. It's the very least we can do for Floyd and for Darnella Frazier, the brave 17-year-old Black girl who held up her phone that day and bore witness to the last minutes of his life. It's hard for me to believe a person can watch even part of her ten-minute video and not feel something break inside.

The Chauvin verdict is an accountability, but it is not justice, my student says, and I agree. Justice would mean George Floyd was still alive and able to hold his 6-year-old daughter Gianna in his arms.

But this Wednesday morning is worse, so much worse, because minutes before the Chauvin verdict was announced, a 16-year-old Black girl named Ma'Khia Bryant was shot and killed in the street by a white police officer in Columbus, Ohio. An investigation is pending, but surely, I don't have to tell you how that sounds to my student less than 24 hours later.

It's too much on top of more than one can bear. My student, this talented and spirited young woman who has been such a fierce presence in my class, has no energy left to talk about what's due by the end of the semester. She is the first of several Black women, current and former students, who tell me that day, without hesitation or doubt, "That girl could be me."

I am a white woman who has never had a minute's worry that the color of my skin would lead to the cause of my death. What is my role in this moment as a professor, a colleague, a friend?

I try to take guidance from Black friends, students and colleagues. The instruction is pretty simple: Shut up. For the sake of all that is right and holy, just shut up for a while and listen. To ignore their pain is to magnify our indifference, and filling this space with our words, our feelings, is just another way to say, "I don't see you."

If your daily life includes no Black friends, colleagues or neighbors, it is by choice. You can argue your "very good reasons" all you want. No one believes you, even if they like you. Try explaining, for example, how your all-white neighborhood reflects your commitment to racial equality. I speak from shameful experience. When you don't want to tell people where you live, it's time to move.

There is one space in which white Americans should always be outspoken allies of Black people, and that is in the company of other white people. So often, our most uncomfortable moments are the most important ones.

For all of my 19 years as a columnist, there has been no rival for the hate mail about racism from people who look like me. The message, sometimes cloaked in Scripture but often just raw with rage, is always the same: You have betrayed your people.

If your primary requirement for love or camaraderie with another human being is a matching skin tone, your world is but a thimble bobbing on a wondrous sea. My mother would want me to pray for you, just as many of you claim to be praying for me. She'd want me to mean it, though, so I keep trying.

It's Thursday evening now, and my mind is full of the thoughts my students have bravely shared in this sad week of never-ending pain. I am slowed by the weight of their words, struggling to imagine what it is like to be them right now.

I do not know because I cannot know, in this whiteness of being. But for them, I will keep trying.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University's school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including "...and His Lovely Wife," which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. She is also the author of The New York Times bestselling novel, The Daughters of Erietown. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com

One Black Life Mattered, This Time

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

Remember when three Black women proclaimed that Black Lives Matter? It was in 2013 after a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the fatal shooting of unarmed Black teen Trayvon Martin in Florida. It seemed so essential and overdue for Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi to found a movement to defiantly claim what America had too often denied.

Yet it was controversial. The willfully blind countered with "All Lives Matter," as though saying that would make it so. Then, there were suggestions: "Don't you think it would be less divisive if the signs read 'Black Lives Matter, Too?'"

In all honesty, anyone who did not get it was not going to with the addition of one three-letter word. But then the world witnessed Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin press his knee on the neck of George Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds. That the doubters needed video evidence was infuriating, when Black and brown Americans had been bearing witness for hundreds of years. But communities craving visibility and justice welcomed the opened eyes and protests by all ages and races.

It was certainly never a sure thing that Chauvin would be found guilty on all murder and manslaughter charges, as he was. There was also video of the killings of Philando Castile in Minnesota in 2016 and Walter Scott in South Carolina in 2015. Yet in Castile's case, police officer Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty. And in Scott's case, after the first prosecution ended in a hung jury, it took a federal prosecution to gain a plea from former police officer Michael Slager — despite the evidence a brave citizen recorded of Slager shooting Scott in the back, taking aim while standing 15 to 20 feet away, and then throwing his Taser down to concoct a false story for his department to swallow and regurgitate as truth. (Another bit of mild relief this week as Slager's 20-year sentence was upheld.)

No wonder so many were holding our collective breath.

Unique Circumstances

It took the shock and trauma of Floyd's torture and murder in broad daylight, the look on the face of a white police officer showing the crowd that he was in charge, and a prosecution that cared enough to put in the work to get a conviction. The defense lawyer's characterization of Floyd as at once superhuman, able to rise up after he stopped breathing, yet so weak he literally dropped dead from preexisting conditions, and the crowd as frightening when they were the ones helplessly pleading with Chauvin, the man with the gun and the mace, fell flat this time.

In a startling change, police testified against one of their own, as if to say, it's him, not us. An acquittal for Chauvin would have truly proved police can get away with anything.

But the marches and protests will continue because it is about more than one trial and one officer. The case of Daunte Wright, shot and killed during what started as a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, as the Chauvin trial was going on, was a reminder of that. And at those Black Lives Matter marches, a militarized presence by police contrasted with their light hand when confronted by anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, and insurrectionists anxious to overturn the results of a free and fair election.

Peaceful civil rights activists now praised as secular saints by liberals and conservatives alike — a litany that includes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, and Fannie Lou Hamer — were once met with state-sanctioned violence. Some scenes in the present, at protests for justice, resemble the images from then, with tear gas lingering in the air and snipers on roofs.

Changes Afoot

It's true the Biden administration's Department of Justice seems to be taking that word "justice" seriously. Attorney General Merrick Garland is rescinding the ban on consent decrees that monitored local police departments, agreements President Donald Trump and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions deemed an infringement. Just this week, Garland announced a Justice Department probe into the practices and culture of the Minneapolis Police Department.

In my home state of Maryland, the Democratic-controlled legislature overrode Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of a bill that repealed the state's powerful Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights. Now Maryland has established new use-of-force rules, among other provisions on investigations and punishment, and civilians can weigh in.

Yet, in Florida, in what can only be described as a retreat to the bad old days, Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a bill brazenly targeting racial justice protesters that punishes protest itself with felony charges. At the signing, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd warned newcomers to the state: "Don't register to vote and vote the stupid way they did up north and get what they got."

Ah, Florida. Come for the voter suppression, get arrested at a protest as a bonus.

Even after Chauvin's conviction, there does not seem to be much enthusiasm from Senate Republicans for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, though polls suggest public support for provisions such as bans on chokeholds, limits on no-knock warrants, and data collection that would prevent bad police officers from moving to different jurisdictions without leaving a trail.

Anyone who was paying attention knows that Chauvin was one ten-minute video taken by a stalwart 17-year-old away from returning to his beat, charged up on new resentments.

A Black life may have mattered, this time. But many of us have yet to exhale.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

After Chauvin Verdict, Greene Stokes Fear Of Black ’Terrorist Threat’

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) called the Black Lives Matter movement a "terrorist threat" in a tweet after the conviction of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin on Tuesday on all three counts in the killing of George Floyd.

"DC is completely dead tonight. People stayed in and were scared to go out because of fear of riots. Police are everywhere and have riot gear. #BLM is the strongest terrorist threat in our county," Greene tweeted, misspelling the word "country."

Reporters who live in Washington said Greene's comments were untrue, adding that residents were in the street in a celebratory mood after Chauvin was convicted on two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter in Floyd's death in May 2020, an incident that sparked nationwide and worldwide protests for racial justice and police reform and abolition.

"This isn't true," NBC News' Garrett Haake replied in a tweet. "I spent four hours at BLM plaza in DC tonight, talking to the folks who wanted to come out near the White House on an historic night. Lots of people brought their kids or their dogs. It was a bit windy though."

Greene would not comment to a reporter about whether she thought Chauvin's conviction was just, instead focusing on Black Lives Matter: "BLM has now proven itself to be the most powerful domestic terrorists organization in our country. After Maxine Waters threats could there have been any other verdict?"

This is not the first time Greene has claimed special persecution of white people.

In video obtained by Politico prior to the 2020 election, Greene said, "The most mistreated group of people in the United States today are white males."

She dismissed the idea that systemic racism exists, saying, "Guess what? Slavery is over. Black people have equal rights."

Greene also tried to launch a white supremacist caucus in the House, an effort she abandoned after backlash from members of her own party.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.