News of the Week

Note: Oaklandsocialist will try to have a regular weekly article with comments on events of the previous week. Last week, all the stars aligned to focus attention on the trial of Derek Chauvin, murderer of George Floyd. We had all the video evidence, the numerous and very credible (and moving) witnesses, and the background of the huge protest movement last summer. Even the pandemic helped focus attention on the trial since due to it the trial was broadcast live on TV. So we start with a focus on that trial, with comments on a few other items at the bottom:

Witnesses in the Derek Chauvin trial reliving the trauma of seeing a human being tortured to death and feeling powerless to do anything about it.

March 29
Some thoughts after the first day of the trial and after watching some CNN commentators:

I think that the mainstream of the US capitalist class very much wants a conviction. They know that they have to get the police in hand (which I doubt they will be able to do). They also know that if Chauvin gets off… Well, let’s remember that US capitalism has ruled through a perceived legitimacy. I listened to CNN’s Vann Jones this evening. He described how he quit law school when the assailants of Rodney King got off. Now, he pointed out, several younger generations have come of age in the era of videos of police abuse. Jones also pointed out the following: “We played by the rules and came out to vote,” he said. (I’m paraphrasing him.) “So what happened? they changed the rules.” (He was referring to voter suppression laws.) “And now, if Chauvin gets off, it will mean that the rules don’t apply to us at all. Imagine 40 million Americans who are completely disillusioned. And add to them their allies.” He was giving a warning to the US capitalist class while, at the same time, expressing their view. Overall, I think they have good reason to worry. I think it’s entirely possible that at least one juror will be a holdout and refuse to vote for conviction no matter what.

March 31
Just heard a ten year old girl testify. She said when the EMS workers came they asked Chauvin to get off Floyd and he refused and they had to push Chauvin off. This should be murder one charge. Intentional homicide. [Correction: Murder One means premeditation. In other words, that Chauvin had planned to kill George Floyd in advance. There is no evidence of that at this time. So second degree murder is the correct charge. In other words that he intended to kill George Floyd, but without having planned to do so in advance.]

This, plus overall loss of legitimacy, is what the US capitalist class wants to avoid.

I was having a conversation with a young woman I know who said she kind of hopes Chauvin gets off, because that will help show what America is really all about. If he gets convicted it will be a way to calm people down, she said.

I kind of feel that way too. If Chauvin is convicted, we will hear the most godawful load of bs on CNN, etc. about the “American system of justice… blah, blah, blah…” But the main thing is that if Chauvin is convicted, tens of millions of people – especially young people – will see that protesting works. After all, had there not been the protests I think the trial would have been moved out of Minneapolis to some conservative almost all white area, just as was the trial of the Rodney King cops. And there would have been no televising of the trial.

The result would have been: “Not guilty”. We still might get that, although at the least I think we’ll get a hung jury, or conviction of a lesser crime. But the mere fact that the trial was held in Minneapolis and is being televised is huge. And we can thank the protests for that. It’s already a victory, no matter what the outcome.

Thanks to Rick Sklader for permission to reprint these remarks of his:
Several people have made the point that even though we’re seeing a Trial in which the State is prosecuting a sworn police officer it’s more likely Derek Chauvin will be found not guilty, although it’s my political opinion that the institutions of this country from corporate capitalists to police chiefs to politicians want him convicted. In fact, the system needs Chauvin found guilty to rebalance the falsity that the US is a just society, as opposed to just us getting it again society. To appreciate how exceedingly rare this Trial is, in fact how rare any trial of sworn police officers is in the US let’s look at the numbers.

There’s 800,000 local sworn Police Officers. This does not include State Police or any Federal Law Enforcement Officer nor private police and those employed in the Security industry. From 2005 through 2011, according to the Washington Post, 6,742 police were arrested for criminal behavior, with the overwhelming majority of these being men. Their crimes ranged from simple assault to corruption with a significant number of these being sexual assault against women. This is a 7 year period in which approximately 1,100 police are arrested yearly. The hard numbers for police arrested for Aggravated Assault, Aggravated Battery, Felony Assault, Use of a Deadly Weapon, Involuntary Manslaughter, Manslaughter, 3rd, 2nd and 1st Degree Murder are staggeringly minuscule.

Between 2005 to 2020, nationally the number of police (out of 800,000 police) who were arrested and convicted for manslaughter were 11. For Involuntary Manslaughter 6.

For Voluntary Manslaughter 5. Federal Criminal Deprivation of Civil Rights 5. Negligent Homicide 3. Reckless Homicide 2. Reckless Discharge of a Firearm and Aggravated Assault 1 for each and 5 for all types of Murder. This last number represents the total number of Police whose convictions weren’t overturned by Courts on Appeal.

What these numbers really show is how the State and all its institutional arms protect Police. In fact, Actions of Police are indemnified that fully negate the almost every Right of citizens (mediated only by one’s Class) that were a Soldier on any battlefield during a War were to commit similar acts they would be deemed a War Crime or deemed a Crime Against Humanity or both. This is why huge numbers of people expect Chauvin or cops similar to Chauvin to either never be arrested, prosecuted, found guilty and if found guilty by a Jury to not have their adverse Decision overturned on Appeal.

I need to add that calls for reforming Police Departments or even reducing police department budgets and calls for better training or any other idea will do absolutely nothing to objectively alter any actions of the police except strengthening the police as an institution of oppression of the capitalist system’s Pretorian Guards.

April 1
Testimony in today’s trial. The EMS worker testimony in the video made clear that they had to ask Chauvin to get off the neck of George Floyd. In fact the EMS worker was checking for his pulse while Chauvin was still kneeling on his neck. CNN is having the comments of Cedric Alexander former head of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers who makes the point that if it had been an unruly crowd that was threatening the cops they would have called for back up.

The other thing is this: As is to be expected the defense is trying to put George Floyd on trial as a drug addict. Their problem is that now drug addiction has become so universal in the United States affecting people from all ethnic backgrounds and all classes so it is hard to really demonize him for having had a drug problem.

Firefighter captain said had responded to a call where a person had been “killed.” In other words, he directly contradicts defense claim that Floyd died of drug overdose. I hope prosecution picked up on that.

L: Beat sergeant Jon Edwards; R: Top cop Richard Zimmerman
Reflecting the attitude of the rank and file cops, Edwards was not a happy camper.

So now Chauvin’s sergeant who was on duty at the time is testifying. He had called Chauvin on the cell phone. Chauvin had left his body camera on so the initial part of the call was recorded on his body cam. The sergeant told him to turn off the body cam. In other words he was making sure that the phone call was not recorded. He was trying to make sure that nothing was recorded that would prevent a cover-up.

We thank Rick Sklader for permission to include these remarks of his:
We’ve got to control this guy, because he’s a sizable guy.”

These are Derek Chauvin’s words after he appeared on the scene at 38th and Chicago where 3 police had already handcuffed George Floyd’s arms behind his back, with George Floyd providing absolutely zero resistance. In my initial opinion post on this Trial, I drew a line to white supremacist tropes of SlaveOwners that they routinely used to justify their rank dehumanization of African and African Americans and how these racist tropes have been and are continually reproduced in US society.

Today, the 4th Trial Day Institutional and interpersonal white supremacy is the subject of the legal battle between the State and the Defendant without any of this history and the day-to-day reality of Black People and other People of Color. being mentioned. What is even clearer is that the Defense realizes that their Narrative, their Theory of the Case is being systematically undermined and destroyed by the State. This is why Defense Attorney Nelson’s rhetoric and tone has changed and without rancor become more combative. Nelson’s Cross Examination of the Hennepin County EMT/Paramedic attempts to twist the witnesses testimony into uniting with the police officers as “white” men. Nelson tried through the EMT’s many experiences with police in similar circumstances to paint a picture for the EMT to agree with that yes I can understand how the police felt they were under threat. Factually if this had been the case then those cops would have immediately called for back up.

April 2

If you kneel on someone’s neck, that can kill him.” MPD Lieutenant Zimmerman. Bear in mind, of course, none of this would have come out, none of these cops would have been called by the prosection (if there even were a prosecution) were it not for the videos and the protests.

Now the CNN expert witness, the former DC police chief, commented that it is “highly unusual” to allow the other cops to be together for hours before giving their official report.

Interesting watching entire demeanor of Lieutenant Zimmerman, considered “the most senior officer on the force” compared to that of sergeant Edwards, the immediate commander of the rank and file cops. Zimmerman is clearly much more comfortable, in fact I would say almost eager, to provide testimony against Chauvin, compared to Edwards. The reason? I would guess that Zimmerman is much closer to the top city and maybe even beyond politicians, whereas Edwards is closer to the rank and file cops. The former are more in tune with the wishes of the mainstream of the capitalist class whereas the rank and file cops simply want to be able to get away with whatever they wish to do, and general stability be damned. Or rather, general stability be obtained at the end of a billy club or a gun.

So, as an experiment I just had my wife hold my hands behind my back and put her knee on my back while I lay on my stomach. She obviously weighs a lot less than the two cops on Floyd’s back, and she didn’t have a knee on my neck. (She was unwilling to try that.) Even in that situation, from the very first few seconds it was a little difficult to breathe.

Other News

Biden’s Infrastructure Spending Proposal
Meanwhile, yes there actually other things going on. Among them is Biden’s $2.2 proposal for infrastructure development. This is a huge spending proposal as I understand it. Maybe the details will prove differently, but as of now it’s in line with his $1.9 T rescue package. What he is saying and doing really isn’t that different from what a President Sanders would be doing, except for medicare for all. But one point to keep in mind:

Biden is proposing to help pay for it by raising the top corporate tax rate to 28% from the present 22%. that sounds great until we realize that the 22% was the figure that Trump had lowered it to. Prior to that, it had been 35%. This is an absolutely classic Democratic trick: Take back part, but only part, of what the Republicans had given away to the corporations. We’re still behind where we were, though.

Voter Suppression
So now the top corporate CEO’s are starting to openly oppose the voter suppression laws. After the fact, in the case of Georgia. They might oppose the “festival of gerrymandering” that is being planned also. This reminds me of the warning the military brass gave Trump back last December. Speaking through Mark Milley, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is the nation’s top military officer, they warned Trump that, in effect, they would refuse any order from him to bring the troops out in the street to overturn the election.

In other words, we are now relying on the top capitalist CEO’s and the military to preserve capitalist democracy. And where is the AFL-CIO in all of this? It isn’t even an afterthought.

That is a pretty sorry – and frightening – state of affairs.

Covid 19
Here is the text of Foreign Affairs’ summary of the WHO investigation into the origins of Covid 19. It is difficult to suss out how much of this represents what seems to be an increase in tension between the US and the Chinese government. My suspicion is that overall the article is fairly accurate. Its conclusion seems to be that it is likely that the WHO report is correct that Covid probably did not result from a lab leak. However, the Chinese government is a Bonapartist regime. One result of this is that intellectual freedom – including freedom of scientists – is more limited there. The UN bodies, including the WHO, has to navigate in these waters, so they apparently were willing to accept certain restrictions.

Mat Gaetz, the Donald Trump wannabe

Political Corruption/Mat Gaetz
As many have heard, Mat Gaetz, the far right Republican demagogue who is trying to be the next Donald Trump, is being investigated for child sex trafficking. This is based on his supposedly having traveled across state lines (making it a federal offense) with a 17 year old girl friend. In actual fact, whether he did or not isn’t really as important as the back story. That story revolves around his close association with Seminole County tax collector Josh Greenberg, who evidently used his office for all sorts of illegal purposes. He basically ran the office as a private, criminal enterprise, involving not only graft, but also identity theft and widespread child sex trafficking. That’s why Gaetz was caught up in the net — because of his close involvement with Greenberg. I’m guessing that Greenberg hooked Gaetz up with this teen ager, but as I said, the bigger story is Gaetz’s close association with Greenberg. Rachel Maddow had an excellent show on this.

Witnesses reliving the trauma of seeing a human being tortured to death and feeling powerless to do anything about it.

2 replies »

  1. His conviction depends on the legality in Minnesota for an officer using his knee to restrain a suspect and the toxicology report from Mr. Floyd’s autopsy. The ruling class might want a conviction, but the municipal governments that need the cooperation of the police forces might not. So, they’re might need to be a middle ground. A conviction that carries minimum jail time, probation and no loss of pension, for example.

    • I think the Minneapolis city “leaders” want a conviction more than anybody else in that class. How else to fly the banner, how else to convince even a sector of the youth and the black population that the system is fair? All reports are that the policy was not to kneel on a person’s neck. But there’s more: All evidence so far is that even had it been within policy, Chauvin was obligate to let up even before Floyd went limp, never mind after. I would be very surprised if the majority of the jury doesn’t vote for a conviction; the only question is whether there is one or two disguised KKK-type jurors who snuck on and are going to vote “not guilty” no matter what.

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