Newswire: Day 2 of Chauvin trial was rife with emotional witness testimony

Former Officer Chauvin has knee on George Floyd’s neck

 By:  Paige Elliott, Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

The second day of the Derek Chauvin murder trial was full of emotional and heart-wrenching witness testimony. Witness after witness spoke of the despair, helplessness, and the struggle to come to grips with what they witnessed when George Floyd lost his life under the knee of Chauvin on March 25, 2020. In agonizing detail, the witnesses, many of whom are underage and therefore not shown on video by court order, described how heartbroken and haunted they remain over Floyd’s killing almost a year ago. Donald Williams continued his testimony from the opening day of the trial. The prosecution walked Williams through what he witnessed on Memorial Day when he stumbled upon the scene of Floyd’s fatal arrest while headed to Cup Foods. It was revealed on Tuesday that Williams, like 911 operator Jenna Scurry who testified the day before, “called the police on the police.” After Floyd was taken away in an ambulance, an emotional Williams called 911 to report the incident. “I believe I had just witnessed a murder,” Williams recalled. Williams added that he placed the call because he “didn’t know what else to do,” as he couldn’t establish a human connection—what he termed as a “human being relationship”—with the police on the scene, so he reached out for help. Tears streamed down his face when his call was played in the courtroom. Defense attorney Eric Nelson spent a lot of time trying to undercut Williams’ experience and knowledge as a mixed martial arts fighter and former wrestler. However, Williams was not on the stand as an expert. As legal analyst Laura Coates said on CNN, “They’re attacking the very idea that he [Williams] was never there to present.”  Williams also rejected the idea presented by the defense that the bystanders grew into an angry mob as time wore on. “I grew professional. I stayed in my body. You can’t paint me out to be angry,” he said. Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. Attorney, and legal analyst told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that the defense’s cross-examinations of the witnesses so far was “mediocre” because it has taken Nelson “a very long time to make minor points. The best cross-examinations are short and simple,” he said. “And so far, from what I’ve seen from the defense, the cross-examinations have not been short and have not been simple.” Darnella Frazier, 18, was the second witness to take the stand on Tuesday. As a minor at the time of Floyd’s death, her face was not shown on camera, though the court has allowed her last name to be printed. Though unseen, Frazier’s voice effectively conveyed her pain. At times she spoke in hushed tones, with her voice breaking.  We learned that Frazier was on her way to Cup Foods with her young cousin, but like Williams, she never made it into the store. Instead, she escorted in her cousin so she wouldn’t witness what was happening between Floyd and the police officers outside. Frazier stayed outside and eventually took out her camera and began recording—her video of the incident is what was initially posted on social media and sparked the national and international outcry against Floyd’s killing. Frazier, though emotional, was consistent on the witness stand. She recalled Floyd stating, “I can’t breathe; please get off of me,’” while he lay handcuffed in the prone position under Chauvin’s knee. “He cried for his mom. He was in pain,” said Frazier. “He seemed like he felt it was over for him. He was suffering. It was a cry for help.” She recalled the bystanders saying to Chauvin: “You’re hurting him,” “Are you enjoying this?” “His nose is bleeding,” and “You’re a bum. She said she didn’t recall Chauvin offering any “care” for Floyd at any time she was there. “If anything,” she said, “he was actually kneeling harder. He was shoving his knee in his neck. I felt like he was feeding off of our energy.” Like Williams, Frazier countered the defense’s claim that the crowd was hostile. “Any time someone tried to get close, they [the cops] were defensive, so we couldn’t even get close,” Frazier said. She pointedly noted that the only violence she saw that day was from the police officers, and that Chauvin “had a cold look, heartless. It seemed like he didn’t care.“ When the paramedics arrived, Frazier said Chauvin still didn’t release his knee from Floyd’s neck. “No, the ambulance person had to get him to lift up. He checked his pulse first while Mr. Chauvin’s knee still remained on George Floyd’s neck. The paramedic made a motion to get up,” she recalled. The defense’s line of questioning centered on Frazier having limited knowledge of what else had occurred prior to her arriving and what else may have been going on in the surrounding area at the time. Inexplicably, the defense asked if the video she recorded changed Frazier’s life. She replied that it had. This left the door open for the prosecution to redirect and ask Frazier to explain how the video changed her life. She replied, “When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad, I look at my brothers, my cousins, and uncles because they are all Black. I have a Black father; I have a Black brother … I look at how that could have been them.” She continued, “I stay up apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and for not physically interacting and not saving his life. But it’s not what I should have done, it’s what he [Chauvin] should have done,” she said through tears. It was the most emotional moment of the trial thus far and widely seen as a misstep by the defense. “The lesson here,” said Rosenberg about the defense’s line of questioning, “unless you really have something to add by opening your mouth and talking in court, sit down and be quiet.” Frazier’s nine-year-old cousin took the stand next; she capped an emotional first half of the afternoon before recess. She was seen in surveillance video with the word “love” on her shirt, but what she witnessed at her tender age was anything but.  She gave a brief testimony describing what she saw that day and how it made her “sad and kinda mad” because she felt the cops were stopping Floyd’s breathing and hurting him. She also recalled how a paramedic had to ask Chauvin to release his knee from Floyd’s neck.  The defense did not cross-examine her. Two other underage witnesses took the stand, including Kaylynn Ashley Gilbert, 19, who was on her way to Cup Foods to buy a phone charger. She ended up joining the bystanders and taking phone footage of Floyd’s death. She teared up on the witness stand and said she felt like she “failed” Floyd because the police preventing her from helping him. The day closed with moving and at times pointed testimony from Genevieve Hansen, 27, a firefighter and certified EMT worker who was out walking when the commotion on the corner of 38th St. & Chicago Avenue caught her attention. She said she heard someone say, “They’re killing him” and walked over to see what was going on.  She was immediately alarmed by what she saw. “I was concerned to see a handcuffed man who was not moving with officers with their whole body weight on his back and a crowd that was stressed out,” she recalled. Hansen wanted to render medical aid to Floyd. “I would have been able to provide medical attention to the best of my abilities,” Hansen said, “and this human was denied that right.” She, like two other witnesses, also called 911 to report what she saw.  Hansen and Nelson had a few heated exchanges when Nelson tried to paint the bystanders as an angry mob. Hansen said she was more desperate than angry. “I don’t know if you’ve seen anybody be killed, but it’s upsetting,” she said. Judge Peter Cahill struck her comment from the record.

Newswire: Thousands of essential workers walk off jobs in ‘Strike for Black Lives’

by Derek Major, Black Enterprise News Service

Participants in ‘Strike for Black Lives’


Thousands of essential workers walked off the job Monday in the Strike For Black Lives, demanding corporations raise wages, provide healthcare and paid sick leave, and the right to unionize.
According to CNN, the walkout, called the Strike for Black Lives, took place in more than 100 cities across the U.S. Protesters included Black and Latino fast-food workers, home health aides, janitors, and others in industries where Black workers are disproportionately represented.
The Strike For Black Lives was organized by the Movement for Black Lives along with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Fight for $15, the Poor People’s Campaign, and other labor advocacy organizations.
“Black people are dying, Black communities are in danger, and workers of all races have had enough,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of the SEIU—which represents almost 2 million service workers—in a statement. “With the Strike for Black Lives, we are uniting the interconnected fights for racial and economic justice.”
In addition to striking workers, organizers said thousands more walked away from their job for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin laid his knee on George Floyd’s neck.
The strike was mostly aimed at large corporations such as McDonald’s, Amazon, Uber, and Lyft, who have fought against healthcare plans, paid sick leave, hazard pay, and unions.
“If you’re concerned about life, you have to challenge corporations that will put up a hashtag or slogan but do nothing about workers having healthcare or a living wage or decent employment,” Rev. Dr. William Barber II, leader of the Poor People’s Campaign, told CNN.
A study in May found Black Americans, who make up a disproportionate percentage of essential workers, are more likely to die from the coronavirus, representing 60% of deaths and only 13.4% of the population.
Many large corporations have ended the pay raises and sick leave policies they instituted at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Kroger and Rite Aid ended the pay bumps in May and Amazon and Albertsons ended the hikes in June. Stop & Shop ended its pay raises earlier this month.
“The danger facing essential workers hasn’t diminished. Any job where a worker is interacting closely with the public or coworkers for an extended period of time elevates the possibility of contracting coronavirus,” said Indeed economist AnnElizabeth Konkel.

Newswire: Black Lives Matter protesters tear down statue of the U.K.’s leading slave trader

Statue of Edward Colson toppled in England and protestor throwing Colson statue in Bristol harbor

By Frederick H. Lowe, BlackmansStreet.Today
Black Lives Matter protesters in the United Kingdom pulled the statue of Edward Colston, a 17th century slave trader, off its base in Bristol, England, and rolled it down the street before pushing it into the harbor to a watery grave to loud cheers, according to the BBC. The entire event was captured by photographers.
Protesters in Bristol, a city in South West England, used ropes to pull down the 18- foot tall bronze statue of Colston leaning on his walking stick.
The statue was dedicated in 1895, but for many city residents and others it had been a source of controversy because of his slave-trading past, although streets, buildings and bridges in Bristol are named after Colston who died in 1721. Before he died, he gave his wealth to charities.
Any association with his name is controversial by some. In February 2019, St. Mary Redcliffe and Temple School in Bristol announced that it would be renaming Colston House as Johnson House, after the American mathematician Katherine Johnson, a black woman, who plotted astronaut John Glenn’s successful February 20, 1962, orbit of the Earth.
Colston was an official of the Royal African Company and for a short time as Member of Parliament. In 1680, the company monopolized Britain’s slave trade, selling 80,000 to 100,000 black men, women, and children to businessmen in the Americas in exchange for tobacco, sugar and other goods.
Royal African Company employees branded captured slaves with the initials RAC, using a red-hot branding iron.
Bristol was a key port in the triangular slave trade. In the first side of the slavery triangle, manufactured goods were shipped to West Africa and exchanged for Africans. The enslaved captives were transported across the Atlantic to the Americas in the Middle Passage under brutal conditions.
The third side of the triangle, plantation goods such as sugar, tobacco, rum, rice, cotton, and a few slaves (sold to the aristocracy as house servants) returned across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom.
At the height of the Bristol slave trade from 1700 to 1807, more than 2,000 slave ships carried an estimated 500,000 people from Africa to slavery in the Americas.
After the Colston statute was torn from its base, a protester pressed his knee on Colston’s neck similar to the way former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin pressed his knee to back of a handcuffed George Floyd’s neck as he lay face down on the ground, killing him.
The removal of Colston’s statute occurred during the second day of demonstrations in Manchester, Wolverhampton, Nottingham, Glasgow, and Edinburgh over Floyd’s murder and in protest of police brutality and racial inequality.

Newswire: George Floyd, whose death energized a movement, laid to rest

By: Juan A. Lozano and Nomaan Merchant, Associated Press

George Floyd’s golden casket wheeled into church

HOUSTON (AP) — George Floyd was lovingly remembered Tuesday as Big Floyd — a “gentle giant,” a father and brother, athlete and mentor, and now a force for change — at a funeral for the Black man whose death has sparked a global reckoning over police brutality and racial prejudice.

Hundreds of mourners wearing masks against the coronavirus packed a Houston church a little more than two weeks after Floyd was pinned to the pavement by a white Minneapolis police officer who put a knee on his neck for what prosecutors said was 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

Cellphone video of the encounter, including Floyd’s pleas of “I can’t breathe,” ignited protests and scattered violence across the U.S. and around the world, turning the 46-year-old Floyd — a man who in life was little known beyond the public housing project where he was raised in Houston’s Third Ward — into a worldwide symbol of injustice.

“Third Ward, Cuney Homes, that’s where he was born at,” Floyd’s brother, Rodney, told mourners at the Fountain of Praise church. “But everybody is going to remember him around the world. He is going to change the world.”

The funeral capped six days of mourning for Floyd in three cities.

Following the service, Floyd’s body was to be taken by horse-drawn carriage to a cemetery in suburban Pearland, where he was to be laid to rest next to his mother.

“George Floyd was not expendable. This is why we’re here,” Democratic Rep. Al Green of Houston told the crowd. “His crime was that he was born Black. That was his only crime. George Floyd deserved the dignity and respect that we accord all people just because they are children of a common God.”

While the service was private, at least 50 people gathered outside to pay their respects. Some held signs with messages including “Black Lives Matter” and “Together because of George Floyd.”

“There’s a real big change going on, and everybody, especially Black, right now should be a part of that,” said Kersey Biagase, who traveled more than three hours from Port Barre, Louisiana, with his girlfriend, Brandi Pickney. They wore T-shirts printed with Floyd’s name and “I Can’t Breathe.”

Dozens of Floyd’s family members, most dressed in white, were led into the sanctuary by the Rev. Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist.

The mourners also included rapper Trae tha Truth, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who brought the crowd to its feet when he announced he will sign an executive order banning chokeholds in the city.

“No child should have to ask questions that too many black children have had to ask for generations: Why?” former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, said in a video eulogy played at the service. “Now is the time for racial justice. That is the answer we must give to our children when they ask why.”

Biden made no mention of politics. But other speakers took swipes at President Donald Trump, who has ignored demands to address racial bias and has called on authorities crack down hard on lawlessness.

“The president talks about bringing in the military, but he did not say one word about 8 minutes and 46 seconds of police murder of George Floyd,” Sharpton said. “He challenged China on human rights. But what about the human right of George Floyd?”

The Rev. William Lawson, a contemporary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., said: “Obviously the first thing we have to do is clean out the White House.”

Most of the pews were full, with relatively little space between people.

“So much for social distancing today,” the Rev. Remus Wright told mourners, gently but firmly instructing those attending to wear face fasks.

With the funeral inside the church still underway, hundreds of people lined the route to the cemetery. Many said they had arrived hours ahead to secure a spot.

“We’re out here for a purpose. That purpose is because first of all he’s our brother. Second, we want to see change,” said Marcus Brooks, 47, who set up a tent along the route with other graduates of Jack Yates High School, Floyd’s alma mater. “I don’t want to see any black man, any man, but most definitely not a black man sitting on the ground in the hands of bad police.”

The funeral came a day after about 6,000 people attended a public memorial, also in Houston, waiting for hours under a baking sun to pay their respects to Floyd, whose body lay in an open gold-colored casket. Over the past six days, memorials for Floyd were also held in Minneapolis, where he lived in recent years, and Raeford, North Carolina, near where he was born.

The services have drawn the families of other black victims whose names have become part of the debate over race and justice — among them, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Ahmaud Arbery and Trayvon Martin.

In the past two weeks, amid the furor over Floyd’s death, sweeping and previously unthinkable things have taken place: Confederate statues have been toppled, and many cities are debating overhauling, dismantling or cutting funding for police departments. Authorities in some places have barred police from using chokeholds or are otherwise rethinking policies on the use of force.

Floyd, a bouncer who had lost his job because of the coronavirus outbreak, was seized by police after being accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store.

Four Minneapolis officers were arrested in his death: Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged with second-degree murder. J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao were charged with aiding and abetting. All four could get up to 40 years in prison.

Some of the mostly peaceful demonstrations that erupted after Floyd’s death were marked by bursts of arson, assaults, vandalism and smash-and-grab raids on businesses, with more than 10,000 people arrested. But protests in recent days have been overwhelmingly peaceful.