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What We Know About the Death of George Floyd

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Photo Credit: The Offices of Ben Crump Law – Richard Tsong-Taatarii/The Star Tribune

  • A viral video shows a white police officer kneeling on the throat of George Floyd, a black man who was declared dead at a hospital shortly after the incident Monday.
  • A police statement detailing the event erroneously claimed that officers “noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress” and called for an ambulance.
  • However, the video shows the officer kneeling on Floyd’s throat for at least 8 minutes, even after he became unresponsive, and only stopping when the ambulance arrived.
  • Police also claimed that Floyd “physically resisted officers,” but security footage seems to show that he complied with the arresting officers, at least initially.

Initial Police Report

A 46-year-old black man named George Floyd died Monday after a police officer pinned him to the ground and kneeled on his neck for several minutes outside a grocery store in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Most of what is currently known about the incident comes from a now-viral video taken by a bystander named Darnella Frazier, who posted it on her Facebook page late Monday night.

However, a statement released by the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) the same evening titled “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction” painted a drastically different picture.

According to that statement, just after 8 p.m., police responded to a “report of a forgery in progress” involving a suspect that “appeared to be under the influence.” Two officers arrived on the scene, located the suspect in his car, and ordered him to step out.

The suspect allegedly “physically resisted officers,” though they managed to get him into handcuffs. However, the statement goes on to say that during that process, the officers “noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress,” and called for an ambulance.

“He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later,” MPD said, before noting that no weapons were used by anyone involved in the incident.

Video Version of Events

By early Tuesday morning, Frazier’s video was being shared all over social media, casting serious doubts and prompting widespread outrage over the version of events as told by the police.

The 10-minute video begins with Floyd being pinned down beside a police car by a white police officer who has his knee on his neck. Throughout the whole episode, another officer stands by him. Two other officers were also at the scene.

While the MPD has not identified any of the four men present, an attorney for the officer that is seen in the video with his knee in Floyd’s neck later identified him as 44-year-old Derek Chauvin. Several outlets have identified the officer who remains by him as Tou Thao.

Floyd is heard crying out, repeatedly begging the officer to stop. “Please. Please. I can’t breathe. Please,” he says over and over. 

A bystander approaches Chauvin from several feet away, urging him to get off of Floyd. “You got him down, man,” he says. “Let him breathe at least, man.” 

Floyd again says that he can’t breathe. Thao says “he’s fine.” Chauvin tells Floyd to “relax.”

At one point Floyd calls out for his mother.

“My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts,” he cries. “I want some water or something. Please. Please. I can’t breathe. They gonna kill me. They gonna kill me man.”

More bystanders start asking the police to stop, with one pointing out that his nose is bleeding, seemingly from having his face pushed into the cement road.

“You having fun?” some asks angrily.

“I cannot breathe,” says Floyd. “I cannot breathe.”

Shortly after, the bystanders escalate their calls, yelling at Chauvin to stop.

“Bro, why you just sitting there? He ain’t doing nothing,” one person shouts. “Just put him in your car!”

“They’ll kill me. They’ll kill me,” Floyd can be heard saying over the din.

“He’s still talking. He’s fine,” Thao responds to the crowd.  

“Bro, he ain’t fine,” says one of the more vocal bystanders. “You’re fucking stopping his breathing right there bro.”

“Man, I Can’t breathe,” Floyd says.

“Okay, he’s talking,” Thao says again.

About four minutes into the video, Floyd becomes unresponsive. The bystanders’ yells intensify, and Chauvin pulls something off his belt that prompts someone in the crowd to call out: “What the fuck, he got mace. He got mace.”

Several bystanders repeatedly ask the police to check Floyd’s pulse. They refuse.

“How long am I going to have this conversation?” Thao asks.

The crowd’s calls escalate for the next few minutes. They say that he is not moving, and that Chauvin is killing him.

Meanwhile, Chauvin still has his knee on Floyd’s neck the whole time, and he continues to keep it there almost four minutes after Floyd becomes unresponsive. He only takes his knee off Floyd’s neck when an ambulance arrives and Floyd is loaded onto a stretcher.

According to the medical examiner, Floyd was pronounced dead at 9:25 p.m. on Monday at Hennepin County Medical Center.

Washington Post Releases Security Footage

From the video, it is evident that there are several jarring discrepancies between the official account of the police and what actually happened.

 The MPD statement said that Floyd “appeared to be suffering medical distress.” It does not say anything about whether the “medical distress” was caused or worsened by a police officer putting his knee on Floyd’s throat for around eight minutes.

In fact, the statement says nothing at all about the officers restraining Floyd other than that they eventually managed to get him into handcuffs.

On Tuesday evening, the Washington Post published security footage provided by the owner of a nearby restaurant that appears to contradict the claim that Floyd resisted arrest, at least at the beginning of his encounter with the police.

The footage shows two officers walking up to a car. Two people seemingly sitting in the passenger seat and the back seat get out and go stand on the sidewalk. Shortly after that, the officers removed Floyd from a car handcuffed.

An officer then walks him to the sidewalk and sits him down against a wall. There is no audio, so it is unclear what Floyd is saying, but he does not appear, at least physically, to be resisting arrest.

Another police car pulls up, and after a few minutes, the officers walk Floyd across the street and open a door on a police car before the footage cuts out.

Officers Fired and Official Response

Just hours after Frazier’s video started to spread Tuesday morning, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced on Twitter that all four officers involved in the event had been fired.

“Being Black in America should not be a death sentence,” Frey said in a later statement. “What we saw is horrible. Completely and utterly messed up.”

“The man’s life matters. He matters. He was someone son. Someone’s family member. Someone’s friend,” Frey continued. “He was a human being and his life mattered.”

Around the same time, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said in a statement that the F.B.I. was conducting a federal civil rights investigation into, and that the state bureau was also conducting its own investigation at the request of MPD.

In a separate statement, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office said that it was helping with the investigation.

“At the end of the investigation, the findings will be presented to our office for consideration of prosecution,” the statement added.

Response From Floyd’s Family and Lawyer 

While the firing of the four officers was widely applauded, many called for them to be charged and arrested.

Floyd’s family and their attorney have also demanded that more be done to the officers.

“They need to be charged with murder because what they did was murder,” Floyd’s cousin Tera Brown told CNN on Tuesday night. “And almost the whole world has witnessed that because somebody was gracious enough to record it… They need to pay for what they did.” 

“I feel those guys need to be put in jail,” George Floyd’s sister Bridgett Floyd told ABC. “They murdered my brother.”

Ben Crump, the lawyer representing Floyd’s family, also asked the public to call the District Attorney and demand the officers be arrested and charged.

Crump, notable, is also representing the family of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old black jogger who was shot and killed in Georgia in February.

As of writing, none of the four officers involved in Floyd’s death have been taken into custody.

Response on Social Media

In addition to Floyd’s family, thousands of people chimed in on social media to express their outrage over the wrongful death.

“The lack of humanity in this disturbing video is sickening,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz tweeted. “We will get answers and seek justice.”

“It is sickening to watch this black man be killed while helplessly begging for help,” wrote Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who represents Minneapolis and it’s surrounding areas. 

“Black lives matter isn’t just a chant, it’s call for justice. It’s a call for our humanity to be recognized. This must stop. There needs to be an immediate DOJ investigation into this.”

Numerous people also drew comparisons between the deaths of Floyd and Eric Garner, the young black man who died in New York police custody in 2014 after a white officer put him in a chokehold and Garner, who was also filmed on a cellphone, repeatedly said “I can’t breathe.”

Many social media users also shared a photo of Colin Kaepernick, the NFL player who kneeled during the national anthem to protest police brutality, alongside a photo of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck.

The picture was shared by several prominent athletes, including basketball legend LeBron James. 

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Former NFL wide receiver Nathan Palmer also shared the photo in a tweet. 

“So…don’t ask why he took a knee…they’re still killing BLACK MEN and getting away with this sh*t! I don’t condone starting a war but I think it’s clear what we need to start doing yo…” he wrote.

Kaepernick himself shared Palmer’s Tweet on his Instagram story.

Protests Break Out

While countless people took to social media, hundreds more took to the streets of Minneapolis on Tuesday afternoon and evening to protest.

The protests started out peacefully, with demonstrators meeting at the intersection where Floyd was killed chanting “I can’t breathe!” and “No justice, no peace!”

Around 6 p.m., the crowd moved to the 3rd Police Precinct where the protesters reportedly believed the officers involved were based.

When they arrived things quickly escalated. Several media outlets and the police claimed that a small group of people began to vandalize the precinct and were quickly followed by others.

That prompted the police to show up in riot gear to fire tear gas and flash grenades into the crowds to disperse them. The confrontation went on late into the evening before the protestors dispersed due to a rainstorm.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (USA Today) (PBS News Hour)

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San Francisco Lawmaker Proposes CAREN Act to Make False, Racist 911 Calls Illegal

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  • San Francisco City Supervisor Shamann Walton introduced an ordinance this week called the CAREN Act, which would make false, racially discriminatory 911 calls illegal.
  • The acronym stands for Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies. It is named after “Karens,” a nickname for white women who throw unwarranted fits in public.
  • These fits often appear racially motivated and have led to “Karens” calling the police on people of color.
  • California Assemblyman Rob Bonta has also introduced a similar piece of legislation that would outlaw these calls throughout the state.

Why the “CAREN” Act?

A lawmaker in San Francisco has introduced an ordinance that would outlaw making false, racially discriminatory 911 calls, dubbed the CAREN Act.

City Supervisor Shamann Walton introduced the ordinance. In a tweet announcing the act on Tuesday, he called racist 911 calls “unacceptable.”

The CAREN Act stands for Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies, but its name bears much more weight. A “Karen” is an Internet nickname for white women whose privilege and entitlement leads to loud complaints, threats of legal action, calling supervisors, and often, calling the police. The unjustified outrage of Karens has been documented in countless viral incidents, and in many cases, they show a clear prejudice against people of color. 

One video that went viral in May has been pointed to as a prime example of this. In that clip, Amy Cooper, a white woman in New York, called the police on a Black man named Christian Cooper. Both were in Central park at the time when the man asked her to put her dog on a leash, as she was required to do in that area.

However, that confrontation escalated when she desperately told a 911 operator that she was being threatened when she was not. Many felt her instinct to weaponize her white privilege and make a false claim could have had serious consequences considering the fact that Black Americans are more likely to face police brutality and die in police custody. She has since been charged with filing a false report after much public outrage.

While videos of this nature have often gone viral, this incident came at a cultural tipping point. Not long after it made its way across the Internet, another story received national attention: a video of George Floyd being killed by police officers in Minneapolis. This sparked a movement of people confronting systemic racism and police brutality, and since then, more “Karen” videos have spread online in an effort to hold people accountable for their racist behavior.

What the Ordinance Does

While filing a false police report is already illegal, Walton is pushing for more to be done to stop people from calling the authorities on people of color for no real reason. The CAREN Act would make it illegal to fabricate a report based on racial and other kinds of discrimination. 

“Within the last month and a half in the Bay Area, an individual called the police on a Black man who was dancing and exercising on the street in his Alameda neighborhood and a couple called the police on a Filipino man stenciling ‘Black Lives Matter’ in chalk in front of his own residence in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights,” he said in a statement. 

This is not the only proposal of its kind. California Assemblyman Rob Bonta has introduced a similar ordinance. His proposed legislation, AB 1150, would make state that “discriminatory 911 calls qualify as a hate crime, and further establish civil liability for the person who discriminatorily called 911.”

“AB 1550, when amended, will impose serious consequences on those who make 911 calls that are motivated by hate and bigotry; actions that inherently cause harm and pain to others,” Bonta said in a statement. “This bill is incredibly important to upholding our values and ensuring the safety of all Californians.”

See what others are saying: (SFist) (The Hill) (CNN)

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Catholic Church Granted at Least $1.4 Billion in PPP Loans

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  • An analysis from the Associated Press found that the Catholic Church received at least between $1.4 and $3.5 billion in federal coronavirus relief aid.
  • The report identified 3,500 loans the Church received from the Paycheck Protection Program, but leaders have previously stated that as many as 9,000 bodies of the Church received funding.
  • However, government data only shared who received loans over $150,000. Smaller churches that received under that amount were not on the list, meaning the Catholic Church could have collected even more than records show.
  • Usually, religious groups would not be eligible for funding from the Small Business Administration, but the Church allegedly spent a good chunk of money lobbying so that there would be an exception for the PPP.

Catholic Church Receives Billions in PPP Funds

The Catholic Church received between $1.4 and $3.5 billion in federal coronavirus relief aid, according to a Friday analysis from the Associated Press.

While houses of worship and religious organizations are usually ineligible for federal aid from the Small Business Administration, an exception was made for the Paycheck Protection Program, which was designed to keep American businesses afloat as the pandemic shut the country down.

The AP found records of 3,500 forgivable loans for Catholic dioceses, parishes, schools, and other ministries. That number, however, is likely higher.

The Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference has claimed that 9,000 Catholic bodies received loans. Government data only shared loans over $150,000, so smaller churches who got less were not on the list, meaning the Church may have pocketed even more than $3.5 billion. 

“The government grants special dispensation, and that creates a kind of structural favoritism,” Micah Schwartzman, a University of Virginia law professor told the AP. “And that favoritism was worth billions of dollars.”

According to the AP, the Archdiocese of New York received $28 million just for executive offices. St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City received $1 million. Diocesan officials in Orange County, California received four loans worth $3 million. The AP’s analysis suggests that the Catholic Church and its entities were able to retain 407,900 jobs with this loan money.

“These loans are an essential lifeline to help faith-based organizations to stay afloat and continue serving those in need during this crisis,” spokesperson Chieko Noguchi told the AP.

How Did the Church Get Aid?

Like many businesses throughout the country, churches had to shut their doors as large gatherings became unsafe as the coronavirus’ spread continued. Masses were canceled or moved online and celebrations for the Easter holidays were dropped, causing the Church to to fall behind financially. 

While its global net worth is not known, the Catholic Church is considered the wealthiest religious organization in the world. It is also one of the most powerful groups of any kind, with an estimated 1.2 billion followers all over the planet. According to the AP, its deep pockets and far-reaching influence helped it receive federal aid. 

The Catholic Church lobbied heavily to make sure religious groups were allowed to receive money from the PPP, the AP says. Their report found that the Los Angeles archdiocese spent $20,000 lobbying Congress to include “eligibility for non-profits” in the CARES Act, the legislation that formed the PPP. Records also show that Catholic Charities USA spent another $30,000 in CARES Act lobbying.

With its wealth and power, the Catholic Church is also plagued with controversy and scandal. For years, there have been reports that the Church has covered up for priests and other leaders who have been accused of sexual abuse. Many entities of the church have had to shell out large sums of money in legal fees and settlements. 

The AP found that around 40 of the dioceses that have paid out “hundreds of millions of dollars” to related compensation funds or bankruptcy proceedings received loans. These loans totaled at least $200 million.

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Business Insider) (Market Watch)

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Employers Can Opt-Out of Birth Control Coverage, SCOTUS Rules

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  • In a Wednesday ruling, the Supreme Court decided 7-2 that employers can opt-out of birth control coverage on religious grounds.
  • Under the Affordable Care Act, employers have been required to cover cost-free contraception to their employees. Exceptions had initially been made to houses of worship, but a 2018 Trump Administration rule expanded that to include most employers, ranging from large public businesses to universities.
  • The court sided with Trump, ruling that his administration had the authority to provide religious exemptions.
  • Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor cast the two dissenting votes, claiming it could harm healthcare access for women in the workforce.

SCOTUS Ruling

The Supreme Court sided with the Trump administration on Wednesday morning, ruling that employers can opt-out of providing birth control coverage on religious and moral grounds

Under the Affordable Care Act, employers have been required to cover cost-free contraception to their employees, though exemptions were made for houses of worship who could refuse for religious reasons. Exemptions grew in 2014 when Hobby Lobby won a Supreme Court case ruling that certain closely held corporations, like family businesses, could also refuse birth control coverage if it contradicted their religious beliefs. 

Wednesday’s ruling pertained to a 2018 Trump administration policy that would allow most employers – ranging from small private businesses, to universities, to large public companies – to opt-out of contraception coverage for religious reasons. That rule was challenged by the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, which claimed they would have to cover contraception costs to those who lost coverage under the Trump administration. 

The court’s decision responded to two cases: Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania and Trump v. Pennsylvania. In a 7-2 ruling, they sided with Trump. The two dissenting votes came from Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. 

Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the opinion, said that the Trump administration “had the authority to provide exemptions from the regulatory contraceptive requirements for employers with religious and conscientious objections.”

“It is clear from the face of the statute that the contraceptive mandate is capable of violating the [Religious Freedom Restoration Act],” he added.

Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote a concurring opinion, claimed that the administration was “required by RFRA to create the religious exemption (or something very close to it).”

Ginsberg’s Dissent

This could leave as many as 126,000 women without access to contraception within a year. According to Planned Parenthood, nine out of ten women will seek access to contraception at some point in their lives. While birth control is often used as a contraceptive, it is also used for a variety of other health reasons, including regulating menstrual cycles, lowering risks for various forms of cancer, and managing migraines, endometriosis and other ailments. 

“This Court leaves women workers to fend for themselves, to seek contraceptive coverage from sources other than their employer’s insurer, and, absent another available source of funding, to pay for contraceptive services out of their own pockets,” Ginsberg wrote in the dissent. 

Ginsberg claimed that the court’s usually balanced approach of not allowing “the religious beliefs of some to overwhelm the rights and interests of others who do not share those beliefs” was thrown away. 

“Today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests,” she added.

Responses to Ruling

She was not alone in critiquing the rulings. The National Women’s Law Center called it “invasive, archaic, and dangerous.” The Center fears the ruling could have a larger impact on low wage workers, people of color, and LGBTQ people. 

Dr. Daniel Grossman, the head of a research group at the University of California, San Francisco called Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health also condemned the decision.

“No employer is welcome into the exam room when I talk to patients about their contraception options, why should they be able to dictate the method from their corner office?” he asked. 

On the other side, Tony Perkins, the President of the Family Research Council applauded the Supreme Court. 

“It should be common sense to allow a religious group to conduct themselves according to their religious convictions, and yet government agents have tried to punish them with obtuse fines for doing just that,” Perkins said in a statement. “We are pleased to see the Supreme Court still recognizes religious freedom.”

See what others are saying: (NPR) (Associate Press) (New York Times)

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