Aides drafted a proclamation in case former President Donald Trump invoked the Insurrection Act to call in active-duty troops in response to the Black Lives Matter protests in Washington, DC, The New York Times reported Friday.
Last summer, protestors gathered across the nation following the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died while in police custody after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly 10 minutes.
On June 1, 2020, Trump expressed interest to former Attorney General Bill Bar, former defense Mark Esper, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, Gen. Mark Milley, to deploy active-duty troops in Washington, DC, amid the protests last year, two senior Trump administration officials told The Times.
The Times reported that the former president was talked out of deploying the military to patrol the streets by the three former administration officials. Barr told Trump that civilian police forces had enough personnel to respond to the protests and invoking the Insurrection Act could provoke more violence and unrest, according to The Times report.
“We look weak,” Mr. Trump said, according to one of the officials, The Times reported.
But the proclamation was drafted in the event that Trump decided to do so and in the event that DC Mayor Muriel Bowser refused to implement a city-wide curfew – which she later put into place – and other measures to curb the protests, one former senior administration official said Trump was aware the document was prepared.
Trump ultimately never invoked the act, but in an address in the Rose Garden that same evening, he indicated he would deploy the military if city and state leaders declined to take action.
“If the city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residence, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,” Trump said.
In a statement to The Times, Trump denied that he wanted to invoke the Insurrection Act.
“It’s absolutely not true and if it was true, I would have done it,” Trump told The Times in a statement.
A representative for Trump did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.
The Insurrection Act, which grants the president authority to use active-duty troops for law enforcement, has only been invoked twice in the last four decades – once in response to the widespread looting and civil unrest after Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and another during the 1992 riots in Los Angeles after the acquittal four Los Angeles Police officers involved in the beating of Rodney King.
George Floyd’s brother pleaded Friday for former police officer Derek Chauvin to be given the maximum sentence possible for his role in the killing, saying his own family has already been given a “life sentence.”
Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter in April 2021 for killing Floyd last May in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Speaking at Chauvin’s sentencing hearing, Philonise Floyd said that he has been tormented by the murder of his brother, which sparked a summer of protests across the country. The video of George Floyd’s killing, in which Chauvin kneels on his neck for more than nine minutes, was seen around the world.
“For an entire year, I had to relive George being tortured to death every hour of the day, only taking naps and not knowing what a good night’s sleep is anymore,” Floyd said.
“With a smirk on his face… Officer Chauvin used excessive force and acted against his training. Chauvin had no regard for human life – George’s life,” he said.
He urged the judge to hand Chauvin the maximum sentence for each charge, or up to 75 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
“My family and I have been given a life sentence,” he said. “We will never be able to get George back.”
The House on Wednesday passed bipartisan legislation to make June 19, known as Juneteenth, a national holiday celebrating the emancipation of people who were enslaved in the US.
The bill passed by 415-14 vote, with all votes against it coming from Republicans.
“It has been a long journey,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat from Houston and author of the bill, said on the floor. “This bill and this day is about freedom.”
The bill passed the Senate 24 hours earlier, winning unanimous support on Tuesday. President Joe Biden is expected to sign it into law ahead of this weekend’s annual celebration.
Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, had been vocally opposed to the legislation, saying that it was too costly to give federal employees another day off work. But he ended his blockade of the bill on Tuesday, which allowed the Senate to move forward.
In the House Wednesday, Republican objections largely focused on process, with speakers complaining about the bill being fast-tracked without sufficient committee input. Rep. Clay Higgins, a Republican from Louisiana, objected to the name of the bill, the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act,” saying that it was “coopting” the Fourth of July. But he added that he supported it regardless.
Democrats, meanwhile, linked the creation of the holiday to fights for social justice.
“It’s also a recognition that we have so much work to do to rid this country of systemic racism, discrimination, and hate,” Rep. Brenda Lawrence, a Democrat from Detroit, said. “Juneteenth, what we are doing today, should empower us to fight even harder every single day for criminal-justice reform, for racial equality, and for economic empowerment of Black people in America.”
Juneteenth will become the US’s 11th federal holiday. The last one, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, was added to the calendar nearly 40 years ago. The legislation will give federal employees a day off, and private companies are expected to follow suit.
On the campaign trail last year, Biden publicly commemorated the holiday by tweeting: “#Juneteenth reminds us of how vulnerable our nation is to being poisoned by systems and acts of inhumanity-but it’s also a reminder of our ability to change.
“Together, we can lay the roots of real and lasting justice, and become the extraordinary nation that was promised to all.”
Juneteenth, which has been celebrated since the late 1800s, comemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, and announced that the region’s 250,0000 enslaved African Americans had been emancipated, thus ending slavery in the last Confederate territory.
The day came two years after President Abraham Lincoln read the Emancipation Proclamation and a few months after Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery and “involuntary servitude,” except as punishment for a crime.
“It’s long overdue to be recognized as a federal holiday,” Rep. Randy Weber, a Republican who represents Galveston, said Wednesday. “Juneteenth reminds us of the freedom so bravely defended by so many Americans,”
He added that it “reminds us we have a ways to go.”
Calls to make Juneteenth a national holiday, which has been in the works for years, gained momentum last year amid the nationwide protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by a white Minneapolis police officer.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday mentioned both the Black Lives Matter movement and the January 6 Capitol insurrection as justification for the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny and the Kremlin’s remarkable crackdown on dissent.
Putin was asked by ABC News reporter Rachel Scott why so many of his opponents end up dead or in prison. “What are you so afraid of?” she asked.
The longtime Russian leader and former KGB officer bristled at the question initially.
Putin, appearing solo before President Joe Biden spoke to the press, lumped the Black Lives Matter movement in with looting and violence that broke out at some protests in the US last summer.
“We saw disorder, destruction, violations of law. We feel sympathy with the USA, but we don’t want that to happen on our territory,” Putin said through an English translator.
Putin also justified his government’s crackdown on dissent by comparing it to the US government’s prosecution of January 6 rioters, which is a talking point he’s reiterated a number of times in recent days that echoes GOP efforts to whitewash deadly insurrection.
“As for who is killing whom or are throwing whom in jail, people came to the US Congress with political demands,” Putin said. “Over 400 people had criminal charges placed on them. They face prison sentences of up to 28, maybe even 25 years. They’re being called domestic terrorists.”
Biden did not buy Putin’s analogy when he spoke to the press later in the day.
“I think that’s a ridiculous comparison,” Biden said of Putin citing the Jan. 6 insurrection and Black Lives Matter.
The Russian president has made a habit out of deflecting to criticism of the US when pressed about his record on human rights. He also repeatedly engages in whataboutism, and tends to accuse the US and its Western allies of hypocrisy when his repressive leadership style is scrutinized.
Putin during Wednesday’s press conference continued this trend as he addressed questions about Navalny, refusing to even say the anti-corruption campaigner’s name. The Russian leader simply referred to Navalny, his most prominent critic, as “this person.”
Navalny was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok last August, which nearly killed him, and was subsequently taken to Germany for treatment. Putin, whose critics have often died in violent or suspicious ways, has been widely accused of poisoning Navalny. The Biden administration issued sanctions against Russian officials in March over Navalny’s poisoning.
Upon returning to Moscow in January, Navalny was promptly arrested and subsequently sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for violating parole – including while receiving treatment in Germany – from a 2014 embezzlement conviction denounced as politically motivated by top human rights groups.
Navalny’s imprisonment has prompted mass protests in Russia, but hasn’t slowed down Putin’s ruthless effort to squash dissent. Last week, Navalny’s top aide told Insider that Putin was “dumb” to put the Kremlin critic behind bars because it turned him into a symbol for people to rally behind.
In my hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and across the United States, Black Americans are concerned about losing a loved one to a police shooting. Police are supposed to protect and serve, but many of us fear being murdered by them. As a pastor, I see firsthand how that fear grips my community. However, I’ve noticed a shift in our country. America has finally acknowledged that we have a policing problem.
Tulsa has a long history of racial inequity and violence. The city’s tragic past is in the spotlight as we mark the 100th anniversary of the racially based riot that destroyed a thriving Black community. As a kid, I grew up hearing about the achievements of those who created the prosperous African American enclave of Greenwood, also known as Black Wall Street. I also heard about the murderous white mob that overran the town in 1921, killing 300 people or more and leaving Greenwood in ruins. Recently our mayor initiated the search for the mass graves from the massacre, a gesture that begins to heal the wounds of our past, and President Biden is planning on visiting Tulsa today to pay his respects.
There’s not a single Black person in Tulsa who doesn’t feel the collective trauma of that racial violence. That fear is not based only on the heinous attack on Black Wall Street, but on the way law enforcement has disproportionately been wielded against the city’s Black residents in the 100 years since.
I helped found the Tulsa chapter of Black Lives Matter in 2016, after the fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minneapolis, Minnesota. One of our first actions was to hold a protest against the excessive use of force by police against Black people and to unify the community. Just three months later, Tulsa experienced its own fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man, after an officer opened fire on Terence Crutcher, a father of four who had recently celebrated his 40th birthday. Once again, we held protests calling for justice, this time in our own hometown. But the police officer in that case was acquitted at trial. She later found work again in law enforcement, as a sheriff’s deputy.
Another form of violence in our community is the number of people locked up for petty crimes or simply because they have a drug addiction. In an analysis of Tulsa police data, Black people in Tulsa were arrested at 2 to 2.5 times the rate of non-Black residents between 2012-2016. Instead of receiving rehabilitation for non-violent crimes, they often are put in one of Oklahoma’s many private prisons. These facilities operate as businesses: the more inmates they have, the more money they make. I’ve seen how this has negatively impacted youth in my congregation and in the community. Instead of their parents receiving rehabilitation, they are incarcerated, which leaves them without a mom or dad at home. It’s a terrible system that fuels recidivism.
Tulsa needs social programs that help people like youth recreation centers, vocational education, and mental health and rehabilitation services. We would be a better community if we invested in our people rather than in incarceration, which in the long run would be more cost effective.
This issue is personal for me. I experienced the criminal justice system as an inmate, including serving time in a private prison. I went from being released from incarceration to enrolling in a community college to attending Victory Bible College, where I was able to pursue my calling as a minister. I thank God that I have been able to break the vicious cycle through my faith. The time I spent as an incarcerated person is just one of the reasons why I am passionate about this work and why I’m determined to give back.
We need funding for true rehabilitation and real criminal justice reform, like ending mandatory-minimum sentencing. We also need to end cash bail, and to do away with the death penalty. Biden has promised to take all these steps but he hasn’t always been a champion of criminal justice reform. Early in his career, he embraced policies that contributed to mass incarceration. He now seems to be rectifying some of those past wrongs.
Here’s another reason I have renewed hope: In Tulsa – a city that had a racial massacre 100 years ago – our mayor last year hired our first Black chief of police. The work we did this past year paid off because I was able to sit down with the new chief a few weeks ago to discuss our concerns and develop positive solutions, so every member of our community feels safe.
The Biden Administration has shown that it is also ready to make positive change and is committed to unifying our country, which I believe can only be achieved through social justice. There is a lot of work to do, and we must keep demanding more action, but we are moving in the right direction.
Senior Pastor Mareo D. Johnson resides over Seeking the Kingdom Ministries in Tulsa. He is the founder and director of Black Lives Matter Tulsa.
“Accountability” is a word that’s often thrown around with little to no understanding of its true meaning and purpose. This has never been more true than with the recent conviction of Derek Chauvin and the dialogue around it.
When NBA superstar LeBron James responded to the conviction with one word, “ACCOUNTABILITY,” it got over 228,000 likes and over 30,000 retweets, it showed that people have lost touch with what accountability actually means.
Yes, Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd, as he should have been, but this is not accountability, this is just punishment. The criminal justice system conflates these two concepts, but we cannot follow suit.
Worth a thousands words
The false equivalency between punishment and accountability has been dished-out to society through our dysfunctional justice system. We’ve been led to believe that punishment will solve all our problems, but it won’t. What makes an arbitrary number of years spent in prison equivalent to accountability? How does that right the harm that was caused?
We need to understand what accountability actually is. When used properly, true accountability can bring growth and healing, and this is what we should all strive for when harm occurs. True accountability allows us to learn from the pain we caused and break the cycle of our harmful ways. I know, because when I was 22 years old, I took a human life during a drug robbery. This led me to receive a 38 year-long prison sentence. When I first received my sentence I thought, “I deserve this. I took a life, and now I have to pay the price.” This was what I had been taught growing up in a dysfunctional system that never had my or my community’s best interest at heart.
Years went by before I realized that being accountable for my actions had nothing to do with the prison sentence I received. Being accountable was about me doing deep personal work that would help me see I needed to own the harm I had caused, and most importantly, I had to stop making excuses for my actions and acknowledge that only I was responsible for the damage.. Of course, there are mitigating factors and circumstances that lead us to live certain lifestyles – especially criminal lifestyles – nevertheless, our actions are our own and must be acknowledged as such.
When I took an individual’s life, it didn’t matter what my intentions were – whether it was an accident or self defense or a rash moment of confusion – I had chosen to do a robbery and during that robbery I had taken a human life. I needed to be accountable for that harm. I could serve a hundred life sentences, but that wouldn’t make me accountable, nor would it do anything for those I’ve harmed.
When doing the work to hold myself accountable, I found that the extremely broken criminal justice system doesn’t offer accountability, or even a path towards it. It merely offers a conviction through the law and then warehouses those convicted. That’s it. I came to the conclusion that only I, and I alone, would be able to begin the process of holding myself accountable.
I do want to acknowledge that it’s easy, after being stepped on for a lifetime, to lose sight of the end goal and mistake a conviction through the courts as accountability. Even after all my years of training as a restorative justice facilitator in accountability, I fell victim to wanting to see Derek Chauvin suffer. When they said he would be held in solitary confinement, an evil laugh escaped my lips because I have spent countless days in there and I wanted him, a cop, to feel that isolation and pain I and others have been forced to feel. However, I quickly realized that as a prison abolitionist, this isn’t what I actually want. I don’t want to accept this broken system of justice as my own.
Over the last decade, I have committed myself to understanding accountability and how to best hold myself accountable for the harm I’ve caused. I’ve learned how to do this while also taking into account those I’ve harmed: my community, my loved ones and myself. Building these skills while facing the harm I had caused didn’t happen overnight, and I’m still working on it. I will be for the rest of my life. This was the only way to begin to atone for the life-ending harm I caused in my youth.
In Derek Chauvin’s case, accountability will only come if he does the work to hold himself accountable. As a society, we can punish him, but that’s all we can do. Accountability is his responsibility. Being held responsible by someone else is much different then being held accountable by ourselves.
As a society, we need to decide: are we looking for the kind of justice and accountability that will stop police from killing people of color in our communities, or are we just willing to buy into the broken system of so-called justice that has destroyed our communities and countless lives within them?
We cannot continue to allow these racist, over-zealous cops to continue to murder people in the streets. But we also don’t want to fall victim to believing that their version of justice is the same as ours, because in the end their policing system will always target those it was designed to oppress: impoverished communities of color like the one I grew up in. We owe them and ourselves so much more.
Christopher Blackwell, 40, is incarcerated at the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe, Washington, and is working toward publishing a book on solitary confinement. His writing has been published by The Washington Post, HuffPost, BuzzFeed, Jewish Currents, and many other publications. He is serving a 45-year sentence. Follow Christopher on Twitter.
Fashion designer Brandon Blackwood was at a crossroads last summer: Along with other Black-owned brands, he saw an increase in support as Black Lives Matter protests swept the nation. He was inspired but didn’t want to create just another handbag for his collection.
“It felt fake and dangerous to do at such an important time,” Blackwood said.
In early July, he conceptualized a small tote bag printed with the words “end systemic racism” and planned to donate a portion of proceeds to the pro bono legal assistance program Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. Almost two weeks later, Blackwood launched his collection of 500 “ESR” bags, made in 37 different colors and materials.
It sold out in two hours. “That’s when I knew the bag was more powerful and necessary than even I expected,” Blackwood told Insider.
Blackwood built his eponymous fashion label in six years and is now selling in the prestigious retailers that once rejected his designs. He found success by cultivating connections with customers and sharing his political views on Instagram.
Brandon Blackwood, which sells in bags ranging from $70 to $8,500, booked $3 million in revenue last year. Today, the brand already netted $6.5 million in revenue and estimates it will hit $30 million by the end of the year, according to documents viewed by Insider.
Blackwood shared how he built a brand with strong messaging that’s been sported by celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Normani, and Joan Collins.
Building a Black-owned brand from the ground up
Blackwood was born and raised in Brooklyn, and when it came time for college, his parents believed he was pursuing a degree in neuroscience at Bard College in upstate New York.
Growing up in a “strict Jamaican household,” he had two options: become a doctor or lawyer. “It was ingrained in me that no other job exists and nothing else will make you successful,” said Blackwood, now 29.
But he secretly pursued fashion instead, interning at Bergdorf Goodman and Elle Magazine, in addition to working with a manufacturer to make custom handbags for himself.
On graduation day, the announcer read the title of his thesis as he walked across the stage. His parents were expecting to hear something neuroscience-related and not his actual thesis title, “Diane von Furstenberg: Feel Like A Woman, Wear a Dress.”
“My whole family was caught off guard,” Blackwood recalled. “But I was like well, I can’t turn back now.”
After college, in 2013, Blackwood returned to Brooklyn and worked as a buyer at a consignment shop for about $10 an hour. During that time, strangers often compliment the backpack he designed and wore, asking where they could buy it.
“That’s where it clicked,” said Blackwood, who then aspired to create a brand people would feel proud to wear. “I should start taking this more seriously.”
He trademarked his name and began saving money – often opting to walk instead of paying subway fare. “It was either pay for my samples or a train ticket to work, ” he said.
Blackwood saved $7,000 and officially launched his brand in 2015 with four bags named after his close friends and brother. But he couldn’t get into stores because his name wasn’t big enough and e-commerce sales were slow because nobody knew who he was.
“No one was really seeking Black-owned brands,” he said. “It was about top-selling brands, which was disheartening to see.”
Using Instagram to connect with fans and reach cult-status
To build a relationship with customers, he used Instagram to boost his voice and identity. Blackwood often shared candid photos of himself with his bags, his diverse consumer base, and used the platform to voice his political opinions.
In the comments, he also would ask shoppers what colors and materials they’d want to see on his next bags. Business was steady, until 2020 when he released the “end systemic racism” tote.
After selling out his initial 500 bags, Blackwood restocked and sought celebrities who would promote it on social media. Most were reluctant to do so, he said.
Then, in August, he took a chance and cold messaged Kardashian on Instagram, asking her to share a photo with her 224 million followers. She obliged, and in late October, shared a picture that received more than 2 million likes.
“When she did that everyone began circling back around,” Blackwood said. Since then, other bag styles have gone viral, such as its mini trunk bag seen styled on Jessica Alba. He’s also begun working with a diverse set of celebrities to promote his work, including singer Doja Cat, model Winnie Harlow, and tech heiress Jaime Xie.
Most of his consumers are millennials and Gen Zers, who support brands that appear authentic and share their socio-political and ethical views. Fashion blogger Zacharina Dainkeh, 23, bought the “ESR” tote last summer, telling Insider the message resonated with how she was feeling at the time.
“I always support businesses that are important to me,” she said, adding that Black designers are undervalued. “We are not trends – we are everlasting and here to stay.”
Predencia Solange, 28, an account executive based in Brooklyn also bought the “ESR” tote in an effort to support more Black designers. She said systemic racism has played part in her life as a woman and color, and being more sociopolitically conscious as a Black woman also meant being also being more conscious as a buyer, she told Insider.
“I wear the bag in style, mood and politics,” she said.
A future without the End Systemic Racism tote
This March, Blackwood discontinued the tote. He didn’t want the bag to become a trend that distracts from its initial purpose to give back.
But he’s already made a name for himself that extends beyond the viral hit.
The brand just released its spring selection of bags, and some styles have already sold out. He’s now joined other Black fashion entrepreneurs such as Telfar Clemens, Christopher John Rogers, and Kirby Jean-Raymond, who are seeking to redefine the luxury sector.
Luxury within the Black community is about comfort and taste, rather than price point, said Blackwood and fashion historian Darnell-Jamal Lisby. For the new rising crop of Black luxury entrepreneurs, it’s also about being accessible and making sure Black people can be included in the conversation of luxury that has long excluded them.
This is one reason why Blackwood’s company insists on letting customers pre-order items to ensure everyone gets a bag, similar to Telfar’s Bag Security Program, which Insider hailed the “New White Glove Treatment.”
Today, Blackwood’s bags are sold in some of the very stores that once turned him down. He hopes to expand into shoes, outerwear, and sunglasses to become a household name.
“People think I’m this new person who came from nowhere but that’s not the case – there are five years of history behind this,” he said. “This is one of the few times where I can finally take a step back and breathe.”
Former first lady Michelle Obama in a new interview discussed the fear that Black Americans often experience in their everyday lives and opened up about her worries for her own daughters.
Obama told “CBS This Morning” that many Black people “still live in fear” while doing ordinary activities, such as grocery shopping, walking a dog, and driving.
CBS host Gayle King asked Obama whether her daughters, 19-year-old Sasha and 22-year-old Malia, have their driver’s licenses.
“They’re driving. But every time they get in a car by themselves, I worry about what assumption is being made by somebody who doesn’t know everything about them,” Obama said in a clip of the interview, which airs Monday. “The fact that they are good students and polite girls. But maybe they’re playing their music a little loud. Maybe somebody sees the back of their head and makes an assumption.”
“The innocent act of getting a license puts fear in our hearts,” Obama added.
During the interview, Obama said she felt compelled to speak out after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict in the death of George Floyd, a Black man. The police killing last May sparked national outrage, with millions of people participating in Black Lives Matter protests over the summer.
The Obamas issued a statement reacting to the verdict, saying it “may have been a necessary step on the road to progress” but that “we will need to follow through with the concrete reforms that will reduce and ultimately eliminate racial bias in our criminal justice system.”
Obama reiterated that position to CBS and stressed that concerns Black people face need to be talked about more, and “we have to ask our fellow citizens to listen a bit more, and to believe us.”
“We don’t wanna be out there marching. I mean, all those Black Lives Matters kids, they’d rather not have to worry about this,” Obama said. “They’re taking to the streets because they have to. They’re trying to have people understand that that we’re real folks, and the fear that many have of so many of us is irrational. And it’s based on a history that is just, it’s sad and it’s dark. And it’s time for us to move beyond that.”
“It happened only blocks from our headquarters,” the CEO of the Minnesota-based retail giant told the Economic Club of Chicago on Tuesday. “My first reaction watching on TV was that could have been one of my Target team members.”
In the conversation with Mary Dillon, CEO of Ulta Beauty and incoming chair of the club, Cornell discussed the steps the company has taken to address the issues raised by Floyd’s death, including law enforcement’s treatment of Black Americans and racial inequity.
“For so many of us, we saw that verdict as a sign of progress, a sign of accountability, but also a recognition that the work is just starting and there’s much more work that we have to do,” Cornell said.
Target has since gathered a special committee focused on supporting Black employees and expanding business with Black-owned vendor partners.
Earlier in April, the company announced it would spend more than $2 billion on black-owned businesses by 2025 by purchasing goods from more than 500 Black-owned businesses and contracting with Black-owned services from marketing to construction.
Cornell says addressing these challenges should not be delegated to someone else in the C-suite.
“As CEOs we have to be the company’s head of diversity and inclusion,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure that we represent our company principles, our values, our company purpose on the issues that are important to our teams.”
The $93 billion company now has more than 1900 stores, and more than a third are led by people of color, Cornell said. His executive leadership team and board are similarly diverse, he said.
Target instituted a $15 hourly starting wage in 2017.
“There were a lot of naysayers. In fact, many people didn’t actually expect that target would be here today but those investments have proved incredibly beneficial.” A forthcoming distribution center in Chicago will have a starting wage of $18 per hour and provide over 2,000 jobs, he added.
Students at The Ohio State University have a reputation for flipping cars over.
When the football team loses against top-ranked opponents, cars will be flipped over on campus. Even when the football team wins against top-ranked opponents, cars are liable to be flipped over. Block parties like “Chitt Fest” are attended by thousands of wasted students and can lead to, you guessed it, cars being flipped over.
Chitt Fests – named after Chittenden Avenue, where I lived in 2013 – are usually rowdy, but not extensive-property-damage rowdy. This year’s rager, though, was less of a party and more of a riot.
One student found her 2016 Chevy Cruz being flipped over in real time. Others reported beer bottles being thrown through the windows of houses and apartments, as well as electric scooters being thrown into trees. In total, seven cars were flipped over, leading some to ask: where the hell were the police?
Columbus, Ohio, where The Ohio State University is located, is a great city. It’s ranked fifth in the world when it comes to quality of life, and its broad acceptance of immigrants brought my parents there in the early 1990s. Although I’ve been living in New York City for six years, Columbus still feels like my home.
But operating menacingly beneath these accolades is the city’s haunting law enforcement, which will remain a stain on Columbus’ image for the foreseeable future. The police in Columbus, Ohio are a great example of the worst kind of policing, and its behavior towards those it’s meant to protect should serve as a national reminder: the police have the power, and they’re not afraid to abuse it.
An OSU student told the Columbus Dispatch that when she called 9-1-1 on the night of this year’s Chitt Fest, the operator told her that police “have other things to worry about.” Those “other things” contribute to the Columbus Police Department’s absolutely abysmal reputation with its community and a record of violence against citizens that is one of the worst in the country.
The latest and most notorious example of this rot came on Tuesday, when 16-year-old Ma’khia Bryant called Columbus police because she was worried about her safety. When police arrived, they witnessed a fight between Ma’khia and two other girls. Ma’khia had a knife in her hand.
It’s at this point in the timeline of the altercation that we have to understand the way police are trained. Considering her age, police could have physically restrained Ma’khia, who was, based on the fact that she was the one who called them, presumably defending herself. By my own review of the body cam footage, police outnumbered Ma’khia four to one, and it isn’t unreasonable to think that they could have simply overpowered her.
But let’s say physical restraint is out of the question. Another option would be to use a taser, as former Brooklyn Center cop Kim Potter is alleged to have intended before she shot and killed Daunte Wright just last week.
Instead, an officer responded to what he saw by immediately shooting and killing Ma’khia within seconds of his arrival. Reasonable people may think this was a mistake, but actually, it’s exactly how he was trained to respond.
A former police officer wrote in the Atlantic that officer training emphasizes the severity of the risks to their lives. Cadets are shown horrifying videos of police officers being beaten or killed, and are taught that the risk of making a “mistake” – like killing Ma’khia instead of subduing her – is far less than the risk of neutralizing a threat, no matter how much of a threat there actually is.
This type of training is why, on December 4, 2020, Franklin County sheriff’s deputy Jason Meade shot and killed 23-year-old Casey Goodman, who, according to his family, was holding a sandwich in one hand and a face mask in the other.
It’s also why, a couple of weeks later, Columbus police officer Adam Coy shot and killed Andre Hill, a 47-year-old Black man, within seconds of their encounter. On December 22, 2020, Officer Coy responded to a call about a man who committed the unconscionable crime of sitting in his car for a while. Coy approached Hill, who had a phone in his hand, and killed him on sight.
And of course, Black people in Columbus are particularly affected. A 2019 study commissioned by the city showed “significant disparity of use of force against minority residents,” citing that Black people were half of the cases of “use of force” incidents despite only making up 28% of the city’s population.
After Ma’khia Bryant was gunned down, a bystander in the body cam video can be heard rightfully saying “Are you serious? She’s a f—— kid, man!” Her entire life up to that point, and everything that would have followed, was reduced to an encounter that lasted just seconds, thanks to a system that values its officers’ lives more than those they’re supposed to protect and serve. This system doesn’t just teach officers that everyone is a threat, it also perpetuates a culture where this behavior is glorified.
This is made clear by the Columbus Police Department’s callous behavior in the last few weeks. Officers who responded to the Ma’khia Bryant scene were heard chanting “Blue Lives Matter” to bystanders. And on the heels of peaceful Black Lives Matter protests throughout Columbus, a CPD helicopter was caught on radar spelling out “CPD” – for Columbus Police Department – in the skies above Columbus.
Few lives are made better by this brand of policing. Few lives are made safer. Otherwise burgeoning cities are weighed down by bad-faith policing tactics, drastically slowing a town’s march towards progress.
The police are on top, and they aren’t afraid to showcase it. Until some form of reckoning shows up on the doorsteps of my treasured hometown, its residents have to live in fear.