Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Darnella Frazier


Margaret Sullivan writes in The Washington Post:

Her motivations were simple enough. You could even call them pure.

"It wasn't right," said Darnella Frazier, who was 17 last year when she saw George Floyd pinned under a Minneapolis police officer's knee. She said that to the jury last month as she testified in the murder trial of that former officer, Derek Chauvin.

No, Darnella, it wasn't right, a Hennepin County jury agreed on Tuesday, finding Chauvin guilty of second- and third-degree murder as well as second-degree manslaughter.

After so many previous instances in which police officers were acquitted of what looked to many people like murder, this time was different. And it was different, in some significant portion, because of a teenager's sense of right and wrong.

Call it a moral core.

On May 25, while taking her younger cousin on a stroll to get a snack, the high school student observed a struggle between a Black man and White police officer. After ushering the child into the convenience store, Cup Foods, Frazier stayed on the sidewalk and started recording.

We've seen the images of her there on the scene in her loosefitting blue pants, her hoodie and her flip-flops, eventually joined again by her little cousin in a mint-green shirt that read "Love." Frazier just stood there, resolutely, holding her phone. Later, she posted a video clip of about 10 minutes to Facebook.

That video clip, now seen millions of times around the world, was a powerful, irrefutable act of bearing witness.

The video, showing nine minutes and 29 seconds of Floyd gasping and ultimately drawing his last breath under Chauvin's knee, was something that couldn't be explained away.

The video became what one legal network legal analyst, Sunny Hostin, called "the star witness for the prosecution."

In conversation with ABC's David Muir last week, Hostin called it "the strongest piece of evidence I have ever seen in a case against a police officer."

Over the months that followed Floyd's death, Frazier hasn't given any speeches. But she gave an interview or two. And every time I've seen or heard her quoted, I've been struck by a few things.

She is soft-spoken and understated, not trying to draw any particular attention to herself. She may have been troubled by the experience but remains clearheaded about what she saw and what it meant.

On the witness stand late last month, she also had this to say about Floyd, whom she did not know:

"He was suffering. He was in pain. . . . It seemed like he knew it was over for him. . . . He was terrified."

And like so many of the other young Black people who took the stand in the trial, Frazier could see in him her own family members. In some way, he represented them: They were, she said, her father, her uncle, her brother.

A few months ago, Frazier found herself accepting an award from PEN America, the free-speech advocacy organization. Filmmaker Spike Lee presented it to her in a virtual ceremony noting that the award was given to recognize courage. Luminaries including Rita Dove and Meryl Streep offered kind words to the young woman from hundreds of miles away. Law professor Anita Hill — famous for accusing a soon-to-be Supreme Court justice of sexual harassment nearly 30 years ago — spoke to Darnella Frazier, too.

"Your quick thinking and bravery under immense pressure has made the world safer and more just," Hill said. Like the others, Hill added: "Thank you."

Again, Frazier was quiet but centered when she spoke: "I never would imagine out of my whole 17 years of living that this will be me," she said. "It's just a lot to take in, but I couldn't say thank you enough."

But it was Frazier's early interview with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that has most lingered in my mind, even more than the testimony she so movingly delivered from the witness stand. She explained that she felt compelled to hit "record" because she was seeing something completely unacceptable.

She may have felt helpless. She couldn't pull Chauvin off Floyd's neck, but this was something she could do.

"The world needed to see what I was seeing," she said.

We saw it, Darnella.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

In one incident, a state police officer grabbed a photojournalist, pulled him out of a line, and took away his phone while another officer held his arms behind his back. When the photojournalist asked why he was doing this, the officer reportedly said, “Because that’s our strategy right now.”

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

As protests continued over a police officer accused of killing Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in Minnesota, journalists have been subjected to numerous instances of mistreatment by Minnesota state police. Joshua Rashaad McFadden, a Black freelance photographer who was covering the protests for the New York Times, told the paper that the police surrounded the car he was in on Tuesday as he tried to leave the protests. “It was definitely scary — I’ve never been in a situation like that with so many police officers hitting me, hitting my equipment,” he said, adding that police did not believe his press credentials were real. Carolyn Sung, an Asian American CNN producer, was seized by police, despite identifying herself as a journalist, and was zip-tied while a state police officer yelled “Do you speak English?” Sung was then then taken to a nearby jail, where she was subject to an invasive search and forced to wait in a cell for several hours before finally being released. Still other journalists have been pepper-sprayed despite identifying themselves, or had their credentials taken.

Many of these incidents — including one in which journalists were forcibly stopped and made to lay on the ground, before having their identification photographed, and in some cases being detained for several hours — occurred after a district court judge issued a temporary restraining order on Friday barring police from harassing journalists, to include threatening arrest and seizing camera or recording equipment. In one incident, a state police officer grabbed a photojournalist, pulled him out of a line, and took away his phone while another officer held his arms behind his back. When the photojournalist asked why he was doing this, the officer reportedly said, “Because that’s our strategy right now.” 

"The Art Caplan conversation is one of an array of membership benefits of the Vanguard Network, which organizes events, publishes content and connects C-suite leaders."

"The Vanguard Network today announced the next in its series of interactive Forums for General Counsels -- this one featuring ethicist Dr. Arthur Caplan, a veteran Vanguard faculty member," according to PR Web. "Dr. Caplan, founding director of the NYU Langone Division of Medical Ethics, will discuss the implications of COVID with General Counsels of Fortune 500 corporations, who comprise the GC division of the Vanguard Network. Ken Banta, founder and principal of Vanguard will facilitate the candid, off the record discussion."

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Stephen Bolsin, who blew the whistle on incompetent cardiac surgery on children at the Bristol Royal Infirmary

From the Whistleblower Interview Project:

As a new consultant anesthetist at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, Bolsin identified that too many babies were dying during heart surgery. He spent the next six years exposing the high mortality rates and attempting to improve the service. Bolsin's actions significantly reduced high death rates for children’s heart surgery in The Bristol Royal Infirmary. His whistleblow instigated clinical reform within the NHS and to health care in Australia, New Zealand. Yet he still found himself unemployable in the UK and immigrated to Australia. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

"As I walk around my hometown, I see so many boarded up buildings. Who is really being protected?"

 Justin Ellis writes in the New York Times:

The morning the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with killing George Floyd, began, I was visiting my mom at a hospital just blocks from the courthouse. I remember noting that it was unseasonably warm for late March in this part of the Midwest. But that wasn’t the most striking part of the day. Nor was the long line of satellite trucks or the reporters from around the world surrounding the Hennepin County Government Center. Instead, what gave me pause was all the plywood that encased the ground floor of the hospital’s emergency department.

I came back to Minneapolis late last year to work on a book about how Black families have endured racism in the city where I grew up, and to support my mom during her cancer treatment. I’ve been keeping a mental list of the spaces that, since video surfaced of George Floyd’s final moments beneath Derek Chauvin’s knee, have become barricaded versions of their former selves. You can’t move through this city without noticing the hardware stores with floor-to-ceiling wood coverings, the shuttered restaurants that didn’t survive Covid or last summer’s fires, and the brunch spots and boutiques that have hired local artists to soften their fortifications with strained messages like “In This Together,” “Know Justice, Know Peace” and “Love Is All Around,” which reads like a cringeworthy homage to the theme song from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

But there was something especially crushing about the plywood surrounding a building meant to give aid and care to people suffering in the city, leaving just enough room to expose signs reading “EMERGENCY” and “TRAUMA CENTER.”

Friday, April 16, 2021

“I don’t see why all these cops are necessary. It doesn’t make sense to me,” Hassan told the Reformer just moments before she was forcibly brought to the ground and handcuffed.

Clearly the Brooklyn Center police have been chastened by the death of Daunte Wright. Peaceful protesters have nothing to fear anymore.

From the Minnesota Reformer:

A 20-year-old Brooklyn Center woman is still in jail after being tackled and arrested by police outside her apartment near the police station where demonstrators protested the police killing of Daunte Wright for a fourth night.

Samira Hassan was standing outside in her bathrobe as some 600 state troopers, sheriff’s deputies and National Guard soldiers pushed demonstrators away from the Brooklyn Center police station and the surrounding residential neighborhood after the protest was declared an unlawful assembly.

As law enforcement stood shoulder-to-shoulder in riot gear around her apartment building, she expressed bafflement. “I don’t see why all these cops are necessary. It doesn’t make sense to me,” Hassan told the Reformer just moments before she was forcibly brought to the ground and handcuffed.

For the third night in a row, Brooklyn Center residents were under a curfew and ordered to stay in their homes except for essential travel. Hassan had been protesting earlier that night just blocks away from her home, but returned home before curfew.

“I just wanted everything to stop. What’s happening is unacceptable,” Hassan said. “The cops killing people … for no reason.”

She came back outside to watch the police because she couldn’t sleep with the sound of fireworks from protesters and flash bang grenades from police.

“And I have work in a couple hours, so I didn’t know what to do,” said Hassan, who works as a receptionist at a hospital.

The rest of the story and video can be found here.

UPDATE: The Reformer has corrected several errors in the story. Here is the editor's note:

Editor’s note: Several significant factual errors have been corrected in this story after the Reformer learned Samira Hassan was not truthful in an interview on Wednesday night. 

Samira Hassan said she lived in a nearby apartment building. She lives in St. Paul, and drove to Brooklyn Center to pick up her 16-year-old brother who was at the protest after it was declared an unlawful assembly. 

In an interview on Friday night with her lawyer Kevin Riach present, Hassan said she lied to the Reformer because she believed the police nearby could hear her and wouldn’t arrest her if they thought she lived in the adjacent building. 

Hassan also said she had to go to work that night at a hospital. She does not work in a hospital. Hassan said she made up the job hoping to inspire sympathy from police in case they overheard the interview. 

Hassan said during the Wednesday interview that she was stopped the week before in Brooklyn Center by police for an air freshener hanging around her rearview mirror. That is not true. Hassan said her sister was stopped by police for an air freshener in West St. Paul. Because Hassan said her sister was released without a citation, the Reformer was not able to verify the claim. 

Hassan was released from jail on Thursday night and charged with unlawful assembly, a misdemeanor. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

"After officers from the University of Minnesota Police Department were deployed during protests over the police killing of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, student leaders are demanding that UMPD withdraw from agreements to participate in 'riot' control."


After the killing of George Floyd by police last year, U president Joan Gabel said the university was cutting ties with the Minneapolis police department. Why, then, were University of Minnesota police officers deployed in full riot gear in response to protests over the killing of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center?

The Minnesota Daily has the story.